Copyright is the exclusive right to reproduce, adapt, distribute, perform, and display works of original expression. These rights accrue upon creation of the work and a copyright registration is not required to own a copyright or acquire these rights.

U.S. Copyright Act

The U.S. Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 101, et seq. provides a means for registering copyrights with the U.S. Copyright Office, which is a part of the Library of Congress. The Federal registration process, while simple, can take nine to twelve months to complete before any Registration Certificate issues. The Copyright Act also provides various rights and remedies for copyright infringement, including statutory damages and attorney fee recovery. However, the Act also states

[N]o civil action for infringement of the copyright … shall be instituted until … registration of the copyright claim has been made in accordance with this title.” 17 U.S.C. 411.

What Qualifies as Actual “Copyright Registration”?


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5Pointz

The building once known as 5Pointz was a block-long warehouse structure in Queens, NY. During the ‘90s, the area was rundown and crime-riddled. As a way to discourage vandalism to the building, the owner allowed graffiti artists to paint on the walls, giving them a canvas to display their works. Ultimately, the 5Pointz building became well known among graffiti artists and tourists and artists traveling from all around the world to add their art to the structure. For almost 20 years the developer and the artists existed this way. However, wanting to take advantage of rising real estate prices, in 2010 the owner of the building decided to redevelop it as a residential complex. The owner ultimately obtained permits to demolish the buildings and redevelop the parcel.

The Litigation


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Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) any website that allows site users to post content, including anything such as comments, reviews or videos is considered a “Service Provider.” A Service Provider is potentially exposed to copyright infringement liability based on content posted by site users. However, the DMCA also offers a Safe Harbor that, under certain conditions, can insulate Service Providers from third-party copyright infringement claims based on such user-generated content.

To qualify for protection under this Safe Harbor, the Service Provider must meet certain conditions:

  1. the Service Provider must not know about or participate in the infringing conduct and cannot benefit from that infringement;
  2. the Service Provider must promptly remove any infringing content once it discovers same, either on its own discovery or by notice from a third-party; and,
  3. to qualify for the Safe Harbor, a Service Provider must designate an agent to receive notice of copyright infringement claims and must register the identity of that agent with the U.S. Copyright Office.

New Law


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Flickr Diet BosEvery entrepreneur knows that a key piece of success is a strong and identifiable brand. Because much thought, effort and money goes into branding and so much success rests on it, it is important to ensure you can own, use, and protect that brand. This article addresses some basic intellectual property considerations entrepreneurs and startups should keep in mind from the beginning.

Copyright

Brand creation may involve a number of people including both employees and outside consultants such as ad agencies and designers. Their output, including potential product names, website copy, strategic reports, etc., is likely something they could claim copyright in. While these people can provide valuable creative input and direction, unless proper precautions are taken in the beginning, you might not end up owning what they create.
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