Perhaps your business hired an artist to create an original comic to attract a youthful customer base. Maybe you want to create a database of stock photography images to license to others. Your ability to promote your brand or generate profit with original creation is largely dependent on preventing others from using and distributing your creation.
When you have copyright protection for your original works, you control who else uses the creation and have the option of enforcing those rights in civil court. A lot of misinformation about copyright protection leaves people assuming the process is too complicated or thinking they have protection when they actually do not.
How do you obtain a copyright for a new creation?
Copyright in general is automatic when you publish
The moment you tweet an image of your new photograph or publish that bespoke comic on your company’s blog, you have general copyright protection. As soon as there is a record of publication, federal copyright law protects you from someone else using your work without your permission.
Some people who do not wish to immediately publish their creations might instead mail the work to themselves as a roundabout means of proving the date of creation in case there is a later copyright issue. However, this practice does not have any basis in copyright law and isn’t a true substitution for publication or registration. Copyright in general does protect you, but registering your copyright takes the protection even further.
Registered copyrights are easier to enforce
You have to send an application to the United States Copyright Office to have the full protection of a registered copyright. There are both electronic and physical submission processes, and the nature of the creation impacts which option is best.
Once you have applied and paid the necessary fees, you will have a much stronger position to enforce your copyright if others try to infringe on it. Some people only take the registration steps when they notice an infringement.
If you discover someone sampling, sharing or distributing your creation, you will have every reason to send a cease-and-desist letter to the party using your original work without your permission. You may also have grounds to take them to civil court for their violation of your rights and any financial impact it may have had on your business. Familiarizing yourself with the copyright registration and enforcement process will make your investment in an original creation easier to protect.