Defending Copyright in the Digital World: The Biggest Misconceptions

Copyright is that bastion of creative protection authors and software developers alike utilize to fight back against those who would steal their works and seek to profit from their hard work. As a business owner, the works your company creates — be it code or graphics — is the lifeblood of the company. Without ownership of your materials, the revenue might literally dry up leaving you with nothing to show for all the time (and other peoples’ money) you’ve invested. The Internet has put copyright laws to the test, and recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings have weakened it further. How can you still use copyright rules today to help protect your company? Our attorneys reveal the finer points of an often misquoted law.

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Sole Right to Profit from Derivative Works

A derivative work is a product created from your original creation already protected under copyright law. For example, the law considers a movie version of an original story you publish as a novel to be a derivative product of the novel and protected by the same laws as the text itself. As the creator of that work, you maintain sole right to profit from its sale or licensing. If someone makes a movie of your book without your written permission, you may have rights to pursue the offending party for damages. The same is true for subsequent versions of the original copyrighted work — a sequel to a computer game for example.  If you own a software company that owns the copyright to the game you’ve created, no other company or person may legally create a sequel or newer version of the work without your expressed written permission.

Illegal Downloading and its Impact on Business Revenue

It’s no secret that illegal downloading on the Internet has had a massive impact on sales figures for multiple entertainment industries, including DVD sales of movies and music CD revenue. Federal agencies have famously cracked down on these practices going after the parents of children who commit large-scale illegal downloading by attaching their wages, seizing college funds, and attempting to confiscate real property to pay the debts owed. The feds are not wrong in doing so — they’re punishing people for theft. Obtaining a copyrighted work without paying the appropriate fee or permission is stealing. Anyone who believes differently or invents some strange ethos to dismiss the regulations is absolutely wrong and deserving of whatever punishment is handed to them.

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Rules Change for Selling Used Products

A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons Inc. strengthens the laws regarding the resale of copyrighted works. Basically, if someone buys a copy of a protected item that your business makes, and that person chooses to resell it to someone else, your business does not have legal authority to demand a royalty from the resale of that product. Your business received payment once, and as far as the federal government is concerned, that’s all you get.

If your business is involved in a commercial litigation matter, including possible copyright infringement, you need aggressive attorneys working on your behalf to see that your rights are upheld. Call our law offices today to schedule your consultation. Let’s work together to find the most effective solution for the challenges your business is currently facing.