Wyoming Business Tips for Sept. 16

September 10, 2012

A weekly look at Wyoming business questions from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (WSBDC), part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.

By Karen Kitchens, Wyoming State Library intellectual property/documents librarian

“Can you provide information regarding copyrights and is it necessary for me to protect documents I produce internally for my consulting business? If so, what do I need to do?” Clarissa, Jackson.

Businesses generally possess a wealth of information that can be copyrighted. Copyright is a form of intellectual property (IP) protection that guards original works of authorship that are fixed in a tangible form of expression.

Some of those are literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs and architecture. Literary works, meaning those expressed in letters and numbers, possessing a minimum of creativity, are eligible for copyright protection. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works.

Examples of copyrightable works your business may possess include advertising and marketing materials, Power Point presentations and other audiovisual works. Copyright is granted by the United States Copyright Office. Since 1989, works are not required to display a copyright notice -- the letter “C” in a circle, the word “copyright” or the abbreviation “Copr.”

Copyright is protected under Title 17 U.S. Code and is illegal for anyone to violate the rights provided by this law to copyright owners. Protection under the Copyright Act of 1976 is secure until 70 years after the death of the author. Just as patent protection extends to any useful, nonobvious, novel application of an idea, copyright protection is centered on the original expression of an idea. The basic concept of copyright is originality.

It is not necessary to formally register your creation by officially filing with the U.S. Copyright Office. You are free to display the symbol “C” with your work as soon as it is made. Registration with the U.S. Copyright Office is only valid within the country. There is no international copyright and protection against unauthorized use in a particular country depends on the national laws of that country.

Copyright registration is a legal formality intended to make a public record of the basic facts. If made before or within three months after publication of the work, or before an infringement of the work, statutory damages and attorneys’ fees will be available to the copyright owner in court actions. Registration also allows the owner of the copyright to record the registration with the U.S. Customs Service for protection against the importation of infringing copies.

A blog version of this article and an opportunity to post comments is available at http://www.wyomingentrepreneur.typepad.com/blog/.

The WSBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, call 1-800-348-5194, email wsbdc@uwyo.edu or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY, 82071-3922.

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