Protecting intellectual property in Oregon: Understanding copyrights

Understanding what copyrights are and how their protections work may help people to safeguard their original works of authorship.

Whether created under their own names, anonymously or pseudonymously, people in Oregon and elsewhere may author original works, including songs, novels, movies and even computer software. Sometimes, the creators of such works may choose to share them, often for profits. Unfortunately, others may seek to use these works for their own financial gains, without authorization from the authors. Thus, it behooves business owners, authors, songwriters and others to having an understanding of copyrights and the protections they offer.

What is a copyright?

Copyrights are a form of intellectual property protection established under federal law. Applicable to published and unpublished works alike, copyrights safeguard original literary, musical, dramatic and artistic works of authorship. This includes pieces expressed through any tangible medium, including words, numbers, sounds, pictures and notes. For their durations, copyrights grant the authors or owners of such works exclusive rights over their use.

How are copyrights secured?

To enhance the protections guaranteed to their creations, some authors may choose to register their works with the U.S. Copyright Office. To be granted registration, they must submit a completed application and the necessary filing fees, along with a copy of their work. If approved, they may be granted a certificate of registration, which creates a public record of their works.

Original works of authorship do not have to be registered in order to be copyright protected. Rather, this type of safeguard is automatically secured upon the work's creation. Should authors have cause to take legal action for infringement, however, their works must be registered.

How long do copyright protections last?

The duration of copyright protections varies depending on when the work was created and how may authors were involved in its creation. For example, anonymous and pseudonymous writings and other such works authored for hire are safeguarded for a period of 120 years from their creation or 95 years from their publication, whichever is shorter. Works created by individual authors and joint works, on their other hand, are protected from their inception and lasting for 70 years after the death of the last surviving author.

How do copyright protections work?

Copyrights alone do not guarantee that original authored works will not be reproduced, distributed or otherwise used without the creator's permission. Should copyright holders become aware of infringement, they may choose to take legal action. A court may order the offending parties to stop using the protected material, issue an injunction to prevent any further use of the work and hold the offending parties financially liable for any resulting losses.

Seeking legal guidance

For business owners and others in Oregon, protecting their original written works and other intellectual property may be essential to safeguarding their futures. On their own, however, navigating the legal system and ensuring the enforcement of their copyrights or other such protections may be a challenge. Therefore, those who have authored works or who otherwise have intellectual property they wish to protect may find it helpful to work with a lawyer.