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How can entrepreneurs prevent copyright infringement?



By Deborah Sweeney, MyCorporation

 Businessman peeking at colleague's laptop

Even if your business is not in a creative industry, you could be at risk of copyright infringement, which happens when someone uses intellectual property that belongs to you

When you hear about copyright infringement in the news, it most often applies to a song or artwork by a popular artist that was used without permission. However, copyright infringement can also apply to photos, text, and other content that you use to promote your business and educate your customers.

It's important to familiarize yourself with copyright law for small businesses to ensure your content is not being misused and you are not infringing on the rights of others. Use copyright to protect your business from copyright infringement.

Register a copyright

It is never too early to file and register a copyright. The sooner you file to register the copyright, you can protect your work from being reproduced and distributed by another party ̵

1; and simultaneously keep from infringing on existing copyrights.

Applications to the U.S. Copyright Office must include a non-returnable copy (or copies) of the original work, a filing fee, and the completed application form. These applications may be filed online through the electronic Copyright Office or with paper forms sent in the mail. The Copyright Office also allows for multiple works to be registered on the same application.

Exceptions to the rule include collective works (when independent contributions are made into a collective whole), group registrations (when a multiple serial, like a daily newspaper) , meets requirements for a single registration application), and unpublished collections (for which the works share the name of at least one author). If you have further questions, visit the U.S. Copyright Office website for more details.

Keep in mind that registering a copyright is not the same as registering a trademark. Trademarks protect business names, slogans, logos, phrases, and symbols.

Seek help from a copyright attorney

Copyright Office advice entrepreneurs to get in touch with a copyright attorney.

Check with your local or state bar association if you do not know where to find that specifics in your specific industry.

Legal fees can be quite expensive, so you may want to see if local offices offer reduced or pro bono services.

You may also consider reviewing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA). This protects the rights of online copyright owners. If your business, for example, notices that are copyrighted are distributed on another website without permission, the author of the copyright may submit a notice to the website. Work with a legal professional in creating and distributing a proper takedown notice.

Utilize the copyright symbol

If you have a copyright, then you can protect your works through a copyright notice. This notice includes three elements that are used in a continuous statement:

  • The word "copyright," the abbreviation "copr," or the copyright symbol ©
  • The year of first publication of the work
  • Name of the copyright owner

By using a copyright symbol, in addition to the other elements, your business publicly displays the world that has been copyrighted.

 Headshot of Deborah Sweeney

Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com which provides online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, startup bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent services, DBAs, and trademark and copyright filing services.


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