COPYRIGHT LAW

WHAT IS A COPYRIGHT?

 

Copyright is a form of protection provided to the authors of “original works of authorship” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works, both published and unpublished. The 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of a copyright the exclusive right to reproduce the copyrighted work, to prepare derivative works, to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work, to perform the copyrighted work publicly, or to display the copyrighted work publicly.

A copyright protects the form of expression rather than the subject matter of the writing. For example, a description of a machine could be copyrighted, but this would only prevent others from copying the description; it would not prevent others from writing a description of their own or from making and using the machine. Patent law protection, on the other side, will prevent others from making and using the machine. Copyrights are registered by the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress.

Under copyright law, you have a right to collect the damages from the infringer.  If your work was timely registered, you will be entitled to select between collecting actual damages and statutory damages.  Actual damages are generally the lost profits.  It could also include other losses that were sustained as a result of the copyright infringement.  The actual damages may also include lost business opportunities as well as a loss to the reputation, as long as it can be proved.  On the other hand, statutory damages are set by the copyright law and require no proof.  However, statutory damages are only available, if the work was timely registered.  Timely registration means that the work was registered before the infringement began or within three months of publication.  Statutory damages fall within a certain range, as established by the law, and are awarded based on Federal Judge’s discretion.  Injunction, temporary as well as permanent, may also be obtained against the infringer.  If the lawsuit is successful, and the work was timely registered, the court may order the defendant to pay attorneys fees and other costs associated with the litigation.

Another powerful remedy in a copyright infringement case is to obtain a seizure order from the district court judge to seize infringing goods.  Such an order permits the plaintiff to go to defendant’s place of business, or other locations where the infringing goods are located, with the United States Marshal, and impound the infringing and counterfeit goods.