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 make the difference between a quick settlement and a long drawn out lawsuit.
It's always easy to get an infringer to quit infringing and pay at least nominal damages when your copyright is registered.
Bottom line, as a business owner, is that you need to make sure that your company owns everything of value created for your business, and copyrighted works add tremendous value to creative and innovative businesses.
When it comes to ownership of copyrights, there is only a narrow exception for employees that are working within the scope of their employment. If your company can prove this, then the copyright in the creative work belongs to the company. Otherwise, your company does NOT own the copyright in creative works...
... and someone else does! That's a disaster waiting to happen.
Unless your company has a valid of written agreement that expressly provides for transfer of ownership in the copyright or a detailed employment agreement and job description, you company probably doesn't own its copyrights.
You see, it's often difficult for business owners to prove that an employee was working within the scope of employment. Having a work made for hire agreement, even for employees, is an easy fix and cheap insurance.
If a company doesn't own a copyright, it must possess a valid license to use any creative work including every images, paragraph and video displayed in advertising media or online, especially online! There's a cottage industry of lawyers sending cease & desist letters to owners of small businesses, like restaurants.
Do you have a written license agreement for every image that you use?
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 the most common license is a nonexclusive license, which includes most click through and shrink wrap agreements for software and images from service bureaus like Getty Images, Depositphotos and Shutterstock, for example.
It's possible for a court to find an "implied license" under certain circumstances, but this is truly a last resort, which may cost your business tens of thousands in attorneys' fees. Also, This type of court determined license comes with severe 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. Don't go on the Internet to find a work made for hire agreement. Chris Paradies has a DIY training that will help you create and use your own, custom work made for hire, assignment and license agreement, and you can purchase that training here:
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. It's cheap and easy if you do it yourself. Registration gives your company a presumption of ownership ,if timely filed. Combine that with statutory damages and a right to seek attorneys' fees, and your company will be settling with infringers, rather than paying lawyers tens of thousands.
Preferably, you should register before publication. Otherwise, definitely get it done within 3 months after publication. The benefits of registration are just too great to ignore.
If this is something that you want to do on your own, then I recommend purchasing the iPscaling.com training for registering copyrights yourself. There is plenty of help on the copyright office's website, www.copyright.gov, but it can be confusing and you won't want to make any mistakes.
But if you need the help of intellectual property counsel, then schedule a zoom meeting by clicking the button below: