The creator of a copyrighted work does not always own the copyright. In some cases other persons or entities own the copyright. There are also rules governing copyright ownership when two or more people create the work. Finally, copyright owners can assign rights to the copyright to others, particularly for the purpose of marketing the protected work.
One of the best ways for software authors to protect their work is to register it with the U.S. Copyright Office. Registration is easy and cheap. And, it provides significant benefits if you have to enforce your copyright in federal court.
A written software development agreement is key to getting the product you want (if you are the client), getting paid (if you are the developer), preventing disputes, and providing ways to solve problems if they develop. And, if the parties end up in court, it establishes their respective legal duties. You don't need a lawyer to draft a software development contract -- you can do it yourself. But be sure to include these basic provisions.
You may have written an outstanding song with a fabulous melody, great lyrics, and memorable hooks. Yet your work doesn't stop there. Songwriting raises many legal issues such as: who gets the credit for a song, how are royalties split, can you claim tax deductions for home studios, and should you register a copyright. Here are ten tips to help manage the legal and business side of your songwriting.
Many artists draw upon nature for their artwork. Yet protecting such artwork from copying is tricky. Generally, you can't claim rights to nature because the birds, bees, flowers, and the like are in the public domain. Yet in some instances copyright law and design patent law can provide protection.
My husband's band is recording a CD of cover tunes. We know we have to list all of the writers and owners of the songs, but where do we go or whom do we register with before the release of the CD? Do we have to pay royalties to anyone?
A competitor claims that it has applied for and received a copyright on its entire Internet newsletter. The text includes the phrase "You Can Do It!" We previously planned to use those same words, for the same promotional reasons. How can we discover whether the competitor has properly obtained a copyright? Is that phrase subject to copyright protection?
Many years ago, several ardent admirers wrote poems about me in wonderful, lusty, funny, romantic, and adoring prose. These were presented to me as gifts, for my amusement and, of course, to gain favor. My question: I would like to print some of these delightful poems. Do I own them, or can I use them only if I give the writers credit? Suppose I can't locate them or they are deceased?
I took a picture of Mr. Peanut on a jar of Planter's Peanuts. I know that Mr. Peanut is copyrighted or trademarked. But since I took the picture, can I use it any way I want -- or would I get in trouble using it for means other than my own personal enjoyment? I was interested in printing the picture as a cross-stitch pattern -- or on calendars or postcards.
I work as a "board monitor" at a major Internet service provider (ISP). That means I make sure that material posted by members of the public on our online "chat" board isn't offensive, illegal, or against our company policies. Lately I've had to remove a lot of copyrighted articles that people have posted because they put up the whole thing, word for word, even the copyright logo. Isn't this still a copyright violation? What do I tell these people when they yell at me?
A photograph of my dog, taken by me and published on my website, was used on another website without my permission. The user is trying to promote her dog breed as superior to my own. The photo is not officially copyrighted. The woman refuses to take the photo down and her Internet service provider (ISP) refuses to "take sides" until I get a court order. Do I have any legal recourse?
I am collecting and compiling a lot of public information about businesses and plan to publish these as series of lists in a book and on the Web. These lists will include general information such as company names and phone numbers. If I publish the lists, can I stop others from copying them?
I have a band. We're off to a pretty decent start -- our songs have played on five radio stations so far. A DJ advised us to speak with a well-known music lawyer. We need a lawyer who can represent us to labels to get signed. We have a nice song demo I can give him, but we do not have any capital to compensate his service. Do you have any advice for us?
I was in a band with a friend. We cowrote three songs together and had them copyrighted. Since then, we broke up. I am now going to put our songs on my CD, and she says I will owe her money for the songs when I sell the CDs. Also, she says that I can't modify the songs now. Is that true?
Years ago I played in a band that released over 10 albums. I recently discovered that the albums are selling well to this day. I have not received a dime in 25 years. I did not write any tunes, therefore cannot seek help from ASCAP. Do I have any rights to redeem past royalties?