To own the copyright means you have the right to control “IT” and earn money off of “IT”, regardless of what “IT” actually is. “IT” can be amongst other things, music, words, or a picture. Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States for original works of authorship, that include literary, dramatic, musical, architectural, cartographic, choreographic, pantomimic, pictorial, graphic, sculptural, and audiovisual creations. “Copyright” literally means the right to copy but has come to mean that body of exclusive rights granted by law to copyright owners for protection of their work. However, the protection of a copyright does not automatically extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, title, principle, or discovery. Common names, titles, short phrases, slogans, familiar symbols, mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, coloring, and listings of contents or ingredients are not subject to copyright protection.

Copyright may seem like a simple concept, but that “simple process” is governed by a very complex legal statute called Title 17 of the United States Code. In fact in the music industry some recording artists have relied on what is called “The Poor Man’s Copyright” which consists of mailing a master recording to oneself and never opening it. It is true that this process may establish that you are the original author but does not afford you of the statutory protections under copyright law. To protect your original work it is recommended that you contact an attorney that is knowledgeable in copyright laws.

A copyright is identified by three (3) elements a “c” with a circle, ©; the year the work was registered; and the name of the owner of the copyright. These elements put the world on notice that you must be contacted if someone wants to use your original material. However, things do not always go as planned. If you own the copyright to something that is extremely popular, it is not uncommon for someone to infringe on your copyright.

Copyright infringement arises when a third party violates your right as a copyright owner. To establish copyright infringement you must prove that you have ownership of a valid copyright; and that someone illegally copied the constituent elements of your copyright. If someone is infringing on your copyright, one of the first things that can be done is a “Cease and Desist Letter”. If you do not get a favorable response from the Cease and Desist Letter then the next step would be to start an action for copyright infringement. These cases can be heard in State court, but are almost always filed in Federal courts.