Copyright Basics

How to Legally Protect Yourself In The digital Industry

One of the legal terms that are quick to be thrown around in the creative industry is the word “copyright”. But what does copyright mean? Learn about the basics of copyright in this simple read.

What Is Copyright?

Copyright is the legal right of an author or creator over his creative work. Copyright is one of the fundamental aspects of Intellectual Property.

This means that once you create a literary work (e.g., novels, poems), cinematographic films, sound recordings, artistic works, or architectural designs – the law recognizes you as the owner and accords you some legal rights over your works.

These rights are exclusively yours, except you assign or license them to other people.

If you have seen this symbol on any work “©”, it means the creator of the work is giving notice of copyright to the world. Here are some major categories of the rights included in copyright:

  • The Right to Reproduce.If you have a copyright in a work, it means that no one else is permitted to reproduce that same work in any medium whatsoever except with your permission. This is because the owner has the exclusive right of reproduction on his work for his content rights management.
  • Adaptation and Translation RightsPermission from the creator to translate his work into other languages or to adapt his work into different forms is also required. The adaptation or translation of creative works is within the exclusive rights of the creator, granted under the copyright he has over the work. If the permission is not sought, the translation of such work may amount to infringement of his copyright.
  • Right to DistributeThis also includes the right to distribute original work, especially for commercial purposes.
  • Right To Record, Perform Or BroadcastThese are equally exclusive rights under copyright over a given work.

What is the Difference Between Copyright and Intellectual Property?

Comprehension Of Copyrights & Intellectual Property

Copyright has often been misunderstood to mean the entirety of Intellectual Property (“IP”).

Intellectual Property Rights Management term refers to the creations of the mind. It could be inventions, designs, literary, or artistic works. All these creations have different protective measures under Intellectual Property Laws.

Copyright is only one of the forms of intellectual property protection or laws. Other types of Intellectual Property include:

● Patents;
● Trademarks; and
● Industrial Designs

Intellectual Property is the umbrella body of laws or medium of protection for creations of the mind, while copyright exists to preserve and protect a class of Intellectual Property better known as creative works which include:

● Literary works
● Artistic works
● Cinematographic films
● Sound recordings
● Choreographic works
● Computer software
● Sculptural works
● Architectural designs

What Cannot be Subjected to Copyright?

Five Things you cannot place a copyright on

You must note that some creations of the mind cannot be protected by copyright, and some of these creations are;

  • Ideas– you cannot copyright an idea because it is not in a tangible form. What this means is that unless you express that idea in a fixed format or medium, it cannot be protected at all.
  • Names and titles – copyright does not protect names and titles that can be easily duplicated; it is more concerned with the content of the work than names or titles.
  • Well-Known Information– information that is considered common knowledge is not subject to copyright e.g., height and weight charts, calendars, tape measures, and even popular phrases.
  • Choreographic Works– These kinds of works can have copyright protection, but only if they have been videotaped or notated.

How royalty is calculated

How Do You Copyright an Idea for a Film or TV?

Protect Your TV Script from being Stolen

You have an idea for a movie or TV, but you are scared to pitch this idea, especially to producers or studios with more resources because they can use your idea without compensating you adequately. However, locking up your idea within your brain cells would fetch you nothing either, so what do you do?

  • Express Your Idea in a Fixed Format

Observe the cardinal rule of copyright: “Copyright does not protect ideas”. Ideas have been described to be as free as the air, and anyone can have them. Copyright only protects expressed original works.

Ideas in your mind, have no copyright protection, so, you must express your idea into a tangible form for it to have copyright protection.

The moment you express your idea into a tangible form, you have all the rights embedded in copyright concerning that creation. The law recognizes your ownership and accords you rights over such work on that basis.

  • Register Your Expression. 

The expression of your idea in a tangible form alone may turn out to be inadequate proof of your ownership of the work. The subject matter here is to establish the time of creation because any other person can create such work, and there could be disputes on whose work was first in time.

Hence, once you have expressed your idea in a tangible form and before sharing the idea with anyone, it is best to register it immediately with the US Copyright office.

  • Avoid “Poor Man’s Copyright”.

In the same vein, a means of recognizing the time a particular work was created, by emailing such work to one’s self, commonly known as “poor man’s copyright” would equally not suffice in proving ownership, especially in a legal dispute. This is because it has been discovered that the dates can be manipulated, technologically.

Although it seems so simple, Copyright is a vast area of expertise. It demands a considerable amount of high-industry knowledge and legal skills because of its modern evolution. One of the best ways to understand your copyright position is to speak to a copyright expert.


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