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Four Steps for Copyrighting Your Blog or Website Content

Copyright infringement is common in the online realm. Just like a patent, a website or a blog is a part of your intellectual property. Thus, you should undertake the necessary steps to protect all of your content.

You may be wondering how to copyright a blog and what blog copyright laws will apply. The following guide will give you a step by step explanation of everything you will have to go through in order to prevent intellectual property theft.

Understanding Digital Copyright

Copyright is a term that describes the legal rights of intellectual property owners. In essence, these regulations state that the person holding the intellectual property rights is the only one allowed to copy or reproduce the respective work.

Copyright is defined clearly by US law and it applies to digital products like websites and blogs. Based on the US Copyright Act, the owner of the intellectual property is the sole entity given the right to:

  • Reproduce content
  • Create derivative works from the original content
  • Distribute copies of the work
  • Display the work publicly

If other entities are interested in such rights, they are obliged to contact the intellectual property owner who may grant or refuse the permission. The exclusive copyright acts can be transferred to others, and the procedure itself will typically be described in the Copyright section of a website or a blog.

Always Have a Copyright Notice

When wondering how to copyright blog content, you should always start with a clear and customized copyright notice. The aim of the copyright notice is to explain what kinds of content use are allowed and which ones are prohibited.

Just like other legal sections of the website, the copyright notice cannot be copy-pasted from another source or based on a generic template. Your provisions should focus on the types of content available on the specific website and the uses stemming from the respective format.

Move on to the Creative Commons License

The next concept you will need to acquaint yourself with is the creative commons license.

The creative commons license aims at listing the specific uses permissible and the procedure that should be utilized for the transfer of the exclusive copyright to occur. Creative Commons provides free licenses that have pretty much become the standard in the field of blog and website copyright protection.

Apply for Copyright with the US Copyright Office

You can apply with the US Copyright Office in order to benefit from additional protections.

For this purpose, go to the website of the US Copyright Office and find the copyright registration form.  There’s also an online filing process that may be simpler to go through. The filing fee will also be reduced when you go the web-based route.

You will have to provide information about yourself, the title of the website or blog, the date of publication, and the pages you wish to copyright. Blogs and websites are typically copyrighted as literary works, unless they’re more visual.

Upon the completion of the process, you will be asked to pay the registration fee. Next, you’ll have to wait. Depending on the specifics of the copyright application, you may be contacted by an official representative for additional clarification.

These are some of the things you can do to legally protect your online intellectual property. A couple of additional steps can also be beneficial. Some of the things to do include watermarking your images, setting Google alerts for content similar to yours (in order to check for plagiarism) and using CopyScape to check whether some of your most prominent content has been copied without your permission.

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All About Intellectual Property: The Differences Between Copyrights, Trademarks, Patents, and Trade Secrets

Trademark-Copyrights-Patents

In the age of current technology, inventions, and ideas, protection for intellectual property has become quite common in our society. The four types of intellectual property- copyrights, trademarks, patents, and trade secrets– are often heard in everyday conversation. But how do we differentiate between these four protections?  This blog is to act as a guide in explaining the basics of intellectual property.

Copyrights: 

Copyright protection is available for original works of authorship that are fixed in a tangible form, whether published or unpublished. The categories of work that can be protected include paintings, literary works, live performances, photographs, movies, and software. It is important to understand that copyright law covers the “form of material expression,” and not the actual concepts, ideas, techniques, or facts in a particular work, hence why it must be in tangible form.

Trademarks:

Trademark protection is available for certain names, symbols, devices, or words that will be used in connection with a good or service. The purpose behind trademarks is to allow companies and individuals to indicate the source of their goods or services and to distinguish them from others in the industry. A trademark not only gives the owner the exclusive right to use the mark but also allows the owner to prevent others from using a similar mark that may be confusing to the general public. It does not, however, prevent others from making or selling the same good or service.

Patents: 

​A patent is a right granted to an inventor that permits that inventor to exclude others from making, selling, or using his or her invention for a period of time. For an invention to qualify for a patent, it must be both “novel” and “non-obvious.” An invention is novel if it is different from other similar inventions in one or more of its parts. It also must not have been publicly used, sold, or patented by another inventor within a year of the date that the patent application is filed. As for the second qualification, an invention is non-obvious if someone who is skilled in the relevant field of the invention would consider its development to be unexpected or surprising.

Trade Secrets: 

Trade secrets consist of information, including formulas, patterns, compilations, programs, devices, methods, techniques, or processes. To meet the definition of a trade secret, the information must be used in business, and grant the user an opportunity to obtain an economic advantage over competitors who do not know of it or use it. This protection is fairly limited, as a trade secret holder is only protected from unauthorized disclosure and use. If a trade secret holder fails to maintain secrecy or if the information is independently discovered, becomes released, or otherwise becomes generally known, protection as a trade secret is lost. However, trade secrets do not expire, so protection continues until discovery or loss.

If you have additional questions, or if you are looking to protect your ideas, products, or business, you should contact an experienced intellectual property attorney.

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Legal Checklist For An Online Startup

Legal Checklist

Forming a new business is an exciting adventure. However, the dream of self-created success and wealth can sometimes cause new business owners to overlook the essentials of creating a new business. These overlooks can potentially cause serious harm down the road. This legal checklist, while not exhaustive, is meant to help new business owners ensure that they maintain compliance and protect themselves from any mishaps. 

1. Find A Business Structure That Best Fits Your Needs: 

Prior to forming your new business, you should first work with a legal professional to determine which business structure would work best to fit the needs of you and your company. Some of the more common structures include LLCs or C corporations. 

2. Protect Yourself and Your Intellectual Property:

 Work with a legal professional to determine if you should file for a copyright, trademark, patent, or any other form of intellectual property. Such protections will work to ensure that your idea cannot be stolen by another. This is of particular importance for online startup companies, as the business is exposed to innumerable others. 

3. Money Management: 

Once you have settled on a business structure, work with your professional to determine what your tax obligations are. It could be a bad start for your startup if the IRS begins to focus on you for improperly filing taxes. 

You will also want to create a separate bank account for your company money. This should be kept completely separate from all personal accounts and funds. Co-mingling personal and business funds could cause serious issues down the road.

4. Take Care of the Technicalities: 

Online startups have an additional responsibility to maintain compliance with internet standards, while protecting the company at the same time. This will require the new business owner to work with his or her legal professional to draft privacy policies, disclaimers, and terms of service. It is also very important that you adhere to those policies that are put into place. 

New business owners will also need to work with their professional to incorporate all necessary licensures. Many jurisdictions impose severe fines if companies fail to maintain required licenses. 

5. Create Strong Contracts: 

There are three main types of contracts that new businesses should work with a professional to implement. The first of these contracts is a Non-Disclosure Agreement. These agreements work to protect confidential information from being released to the public. Not all businesses require non-disclosures, but they are highly important for those that do.

The second type of required contract is an employee contract (if you have anyone working for you). Employee contracts should outline the rights and responsibilities of those working, as well as the appropriate and expected conduct.

Finally, business owners should work with a professional to draft a Buy-Sell Agreement. Such agreements detail what would happen in the event of an owner or founder choosing to leave or dying. Specifically, these agreements details how much money should be paid out and what would happen to that person’s stake in the company.

While the above list is not exhaustive, it’s a good start for online startups to utilize in order to create a successful business. It should be noted that the critical point in all of the above-listed points is that startups should always work with a legal professional to ensure compliance.

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What Is DMCA And Does It Apply To My Business?

DMCA-DMCA-RIghts

What Is DMCA And Does It Apply To My Business?

If you are more or less aware of digital trends and developments, you have probably heard about the war that Taylor Swift declared on YouTube. This is one of the most prominent examples of a DMCA claim and its consequences.

To get a better idea of how DMCA applies to your business, it’s important to take a look at the definition and the current DMCA laws.

What is the DMCA: A Quick Overview

DMCA stands for Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Enacted by Congress in 1998, the act was one of the biggest modifications to the US Copyright Act. Such changes were needed to protect intellectual property (copyright) in the face of new interactions stemming from the use of internet-based communication channels.

Having a DMCA policy on one’s website is a really good idea. Very often, it’s not featured individually but rather included in the website’s terms and conditions. (See here for questions about Website Terms and Conditions) The clause outlines how the company will respond to take-down notices for the removal of copyrighted material from the website. 

Standard DMCA policies provide information about what a copyright infringement is, how a claim can be filed in the case of a DMCA violation, and what information a claim should include.

Protecting Your Own Copyrighted Work:

When looking at what a DMCA is, it’s also important to point out that it protects your intellectual property against copyright infringement. If you discover that somebody has been using your content without permission, you can file a DMCA claim. A DMCA notice needs to be filled out correctly in order to be valid. DMCA law suggests that the notice should feature the following elements:

  • The physical or electronic signature of the copyright holder
  • Identification of the copyrighted work and the infringement that has occurred, as well as the place where the copyrighted work has been published (a website, YouTube video, social media post, etc.)
  • The contact information of the copyright holder
  • A statement on behalf of the copyright holder that explains the respective use has not been authorized
  • A signed statement that the information included in the DMCA claim is accurate

The Importance of Ensuring DMCA Compliance:

Due to the fact that more and more online platforms allow for user-generated content to be uploaded, DMCA claims are proliferating. A part of the DMCA policy is to offer the platform protection against claims that result from content uploaded by a third party.

Take-down letters can still be sent to website owners for the purpose of removing the copyrighted material. The online platform, however, is exempted from liability whenever there’s no knowledge or intentional abuse that the material was copyrighted by someone else.

Both copyright owners and web service providers can find it difficult to navigate the DMCA clauses. In such instances, a consultation with an experienced legal professional will be of paramount importance. Through a legal consultation, both copyright protection and DMCA exemptions will be explained and understood much better.

If you don’t know how to address copyright issues or how to craft a DMCA clause for your website, get in touch with a lawyer that specializes in intellectual property. A single consultation will be sufficient to answer your most pressing questions.

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What Is Copyright Fair Use?

Copyright-fair-use

Copyright laws protect individuals from having their work replicated and further distributed without their consent. In the U.S., a copyright is a legal entitlement that grants exclusive rights to the maker of an original work—such as a literary work or a piece of computer software. 

When an individual decides to replicate or distribute a work despite its copyright, it is called copyright infringement. Copyright infringement is undoubtedly against the law. However, there are some instances where a portion of an original work can legally be utilized without the permission of the owner.  This is called fair use.

Why doesn’t fair use violate copyright mandates? For a use to be considered “fair”, the original work must be transformed into something novel. This idea is called a transformative purpose.

The Four Factors that Determine Fair Use:

There is not a mechanical definition that renders a use “fair” or “unfair”. However, Section 107 of the Copyright Act proposes four factors that should be considered when evaluating a question of fair use:

  • Purpose and Character: Is the work being used for commercial or for-profit means? Or is it being used for non-commercial or educational purposes? The latter variety is more likely to be considered fair.
  • Nature of the Original Work: Was the work being used as a piece of creative expression, or more so technical-factual? A more creative work (like a song or short story) is less likely to support a claim of a fair use.
  • Amount: How much of the original work is being used? If the use includes a large portion of the copyrighted work, fair use is less likely to be found (although there are exceptions, such as parody, where large pieces of the original are used with no repercussions).
  • Effect On Market: What were the consequences (for the original) of the supposedly fair use? To what extent, if any, did the unlicensed use affect the existing or future market for the owner’s original work?

This is the framework invoked when deciding the fairness of a use. You’ll notice that these four factors are rather ambiguous. This was likely done intentionally so that instances of fair use could be determined on a case-to-case basis.  

Here are a few common examples of original material that is legally reused via the principles of fair use:

  • News Reporting
  • Research
  • Parody
  • Criticism
  • Commentary
  • Scholarship

Be advised, however, that it’s nearly impossible to determine when a use is actually fair use, and it’s best to not skirt on that side of the law.

The Bottom Line:

 Copyright laws protect the owners of original material. However, there are ways to utilize copyrighted works legally without permission. This is referred to as fair use, and usually involves the transformation of the original into something new and different. When courts review the fairness of a use, they consider the purpose of the use, the nature of the work being used, the amount of material used, and the effect of the use. When in doubt, contacting the owner of the original is always the best way to go. If the owner is unavailable, consult a legal professional with experience in intellectual property or internet law.  

It’s wise to discuss the legality of your planned use before using an original work. Consulting an experienced attorney may save you legal trouble and statutory infringement penalties in the long-run.