If you have a new business that you’ve recently opened or plan to soon, you undoubtedly have a long list of tasks on your to-do list to check off. This may include developing a website and database, setting up all your finance and accounting assets, finetuning your wares, and getting to know your target market, among many other things.
Amidst all this busyness, though, don’t forget to think about how you can protect the intellectual property (IP) you develop in and for your venture, and also adhere to copyright laws so you don’t end up in any legal hot water. One term that you’ll hear when you investigate this area is copyright. Unfortunately, though, this is a word that gets thrown around a lot but is misunderstood very often. Read on for some of the top copyright myths that need debunking today.
Myth: Copyright and Trademark are Interchangeable Terms
Copyright and trademark are both terms related to intellectual property, and they both protect distinct creations. However, unlike many people think, they’re not the same thing. Learn about copyright vs. trademarks, and you’ll soon see that you can’t use them as interchangeable terms since they relate to two distinct types of IP protection.
In most cases, copyrights protect creative or intellectual works, while trademarks are used to protect commercial logos, names, and phrases. The two protections are so legally distinct that the same office within the federal government does not even manage them. The U.S. Copyright Office grants copyrights, while trademarks are handled by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Myth: If There’s No Visible Copyright Watermark, There’s No Copyright
Many people erroneously believe there’s no copyright on things to worry about if they can’t see a visible copyright watermark. However, this is not the case. It used to be, in past years, when there was a formal requirement in the United States for work to be marked with the copyright symbol, but that has changed. Today, these marks are optional and up to the creators of material as to whether or not they want to use them.
However, many IP lawyers and other business experts encourage entrepreneurs and creatives to put formal copyright notices on their works. It can prevent innocent infringement and make those who may be more likely to “steal” content think twice.
Myth: “Fair Use” is All the Protection Needed
Another common copyright myth is that if you pay attention to the concept of “Fair Use,” you’ll be covered. This phrase describes a narrow exemption under copyright law where an infringer isn’t liable for using someone else’s copyright work without permission. Copying material for a limited and “transformative” purpose may be considered “fair use,” such as when people comment upon, parody, or criticize a work without permission from the copyright owner or use it for other educational content.
Yet, this term may protect you in some cases, not others, as you have to prove that your use was fair and transformative. It is certainly not a silver bullet to get out of being sued or winning copyright lawsuits. Fair Use copyright protections only apply to certain forms of content, too, and there are some unique exceptions, so you need to be very careful about using this argument and assuming you’ll be covered.
Myth: Crediting a Creator Protects You from Copyright Infringement
Have you ever credited a creator in a piece of content or other material you worked on and assumed that doing this protected you from copyright infringement? If so, you’ve likely been paying attention to an IP myth. Simply applying credit in the form of a link, byline, disclaimer about ownership, or the like is not a replacement for permission or compensation and is an oft-misunderstood element of copyright law.
Always remember that if you don’t own content, you must ask the creator for permission to share or otherwise use it or pay the holder of the copyright a fee to license the creation.
Myth: You Can Copyright a Name or Idea
Lastly, don’t get tricked by the myth that you can copyright a name or idea. This type of intellectual property covers creative or intellectual works, not names, titles, slogans, short phrases, concepts, systems, or other methods of doing things. If you want protection for such things, you may need to go down the path of getting them trademarked, as many people do with their business name.
As you can see, copyright is a topic that often gets misunderstood, and many misconceptions keep doing the rounds in society about various elements of it. It’s wise to learn more about this area and contact a lawyer or other expert to ensure you adequately cover your business and yourself.