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Copyright is one of the most important intangible rights. It can be easy and inexpensive to register, which offers the owner a presumption of ownership and the right to seek attorneys' fees and statutory damages! These rights can be the difference between a quick settlement and a long drawn out lawsuit that provides an unsatisfactory result. 

May business owners ask why it's important to register the copyright in creative works. After all, copyright comes into existence whenever anyone creates a genuinely creative work fixed in any "tangible medium of expression". 

There's a lot to unpack in that short phrase. Bottom line, as a business owner, is that you need to make sure that your company owns everything of value created for your business. 

There is a narrow exception for employees that are working within the scope of their employment for your company. Otherwise, your company does NOT own the copyright in creative works, unless your company has a valid of written agreement that expressly provides for transfer of ownership in the copyright

And it's often difficult for business owners to prove that an employee was working within the scope of employment.

Own Everything

The first step is always to make sure that a company owns what many business owners wrongly think is already owned. It's not enough to have an agreement for services or consulting. It's not enough to pay somebody for the finished work. The intangible copyright exists entirely separately from the work's 'tangible medium of expression'.

If a company does not own the copyright, it must have a license, preferably in the form of a written license agreement. A license may be nonexclusive or exclusive. If the work is a custom work made only for your business, then it would be best to own the copyright. Second best is for your company to have an exclusive license to the custom work. A nonexclusive license is the least preferred but most common license, which includes most click through and shrink wrap agreements for software and images, for example.

While it is possible that a court could find an "implied license" under certain circumstances, this type of license comes with restrictions. Your company could be stuck using the work without changes and without expanding the use beyond whatever use your company can prove was intended, and that's the best outcome.

It's so much easier to make sure that you have a written agreement in place.  

Register Everything Valuable

The next step is to make sure that your company registers its rights in any valuable copyrights. Err on the side of registration, and register your ownership in copyrights within the applicable time limits, preferably before publication, if possible, but no more than three months following publication.  

The benefits of registration are just too great. It can be easy to take down an infringer's website, social media site or sales copy on sites such as Amazon and eBay if your company timely registered the copyright. 

If this is something that you want to do, then I recommend taking a look at It may be possible for your to own and register your copyrights without paying legal fees. 

But if you need the help of intellectual property counsel, then schedule a zoom meeting by clicking the button below.