Every entrepreneur should know how to protect and grow their business by leveraging copyright. This article is an extract from michelsonip.com’s blog and we’ll answer 5 of the most common questions entrepreneurs have about copyrights:
What is a copyright? How can I use copyrights to my benefit? How do I get copyright protection? What do copyrights cover? How can I avoid infringing the copyrights of others?
1. Copyrights protect the expression of ideas.
Copyrights are a form of intellectual property. They protect things like books, music, photographs, and software. Owners are given the exclusive right to reproduce their work, distribute it, display or perform it, and create derivative works.
It’s important to note that copyrights protect your particular expression of an idea. They don’t protect the concept or idea itself.
Let’s put this into context, shall we?
You write a book on communication principles. You copyright the book, making it illegal for someone to use your exact words without your permission. However, others will still be able to write their own books using some of the exact concepts you mentioned. You don’t own the rights to the ideas and concepts you shared, only your form of expression of that idea.
2. Copyrights are beneficial to entrepreneurs
Copyright protection extends beyond creative works into business documents, presentations, marketing materials, and even computer code. This means many items created in the daily course of business can potentially be copyright-protected. Once you own the rights to your work, others can only use your work with a license from you. You can charge others to license and use your work, making it a valuable asset in your business.
If you pay others to create content for you, you want to make sure you own the content. It’s important that your contractors and employees sign agreements transferring copyrights to any work they create on your behalf. Copyrights can only be transferred in writing, so it’s imperative to execute written agreements before work is created.
3. Officially registering your copyright provides additional protection
Technically, works are copyrighted as soon as they are written or recorded. However, there are benefits to registering your work. Registration enables you to file an infringement suit against anyone who misuses your work, and you’ll be eligible for statutory damages, as well as other costs associated with the infringement.
You can register your works for a fee. Once you register your work, your original authorship is presumed. You can also monitor and protect yourself against infringement.
4. Copyright Terms:
For literary, musical and artistic works, except for photographs, the copyright term in South Africa is fifty years from the end of the year of the author’s death, or fifty years from publication if it is first published after the author’s death. For photographs, films and computer programs, the term is fifty years from first publication, or fifty years from creation if not published within fifty years. For sound recordings, broadcasts, programme-carrying signals and published editions, it is fifty years from first publication or transmission.
Anonymous works are protected for the shorter of fifty years from first publication or fifty years from the year when it is reasonable to presume the author is dead. For works with multiple authors, the fifty years from death are calculated from the death of the last author to die. Government works are protected for fifty years from first publication.
Section 1 of the Act defines “artistic work” narrowly, as including “(a) paintings, sculptures, drawings, engravings and photographs; (b) works of architecture, being either buildings or models of buildings; or (c) works of craftsmanship […]”. Thus, the incidental use right would permit the filming of a building or sculpture in the background of a scene. But the definition in section 1 excludes music, film or broadcast footage, as well as literary texts. It would not authorize the capture of music playing on a radio, a programme playing on a television set, or even the capture of a literary text such as an open book — because these works are not defined as “an artistic work.”
The right only applies if the captured work is “by way of background, or incidental, to the principal matters represented.” It thus would appear to permit the capture of works in the background of a film, but not the direct filming of works in public places.
Finally, the right allows the incidental capture only of specified works. The work using the right must be “a cinematograph film or a television broadcast or transmission in a diffusion service.”
5. How to avoid copyright infringement accusations
As an entrepreneur, you also need to protect yourself and your company from infringing the copyrights of others. Many people mistakenly believe that sharing third party content is acceptable as long as you cite the original source. This is incredibly risky because attribution alone is not a defense to infringement. So, if you are using works that aren’t in the public domain, always make sure your company has permission.
Learning intellectual property basics is an important component of a healthy startup. Not only can you use copyright laws to increase business assets (and revenue), it’s also necessary to stay abreast of laws to protect your company from lawsuits. We want to assist our client avoid such conflicts. The only challenge any business should focus on is the day to day operations. Leave the other work to professionals and higher professionals in means to focus on relations of the company. Talk to us today #WeMakeItHappen.