When you obtain a copyright, you obtain exclusive rights over an original work, whether it be a simple idea or more detailed information. That’s quite a broad definition, isn’t it? Indeed, all kinds of “creations” have the potential to be copyrighted: musicals, plays, songs, books, poems, paintings, recordings, handbooks, software, etc. Essentially, when something is created, its creator gets protection via a copyright.
Now, copyright law is sometimes tricky and difficult to learn. For instance, let’s say you have a copyrighted poem on your hands that is focused on nature. Does this mean nature is copyrighted? Well, of course not! American citizens would be outraged if this were the case. Only the poem is copyrighted. While this example is clear, others aren’t and that’s when copyright law can get complicated. Luckily, what’s true in one country is often true in another, as copyright laws are understood to mean the same thing across the globe.
So, now that you know the basics, the real question is: should I obtain a copyright? Certainly if you have a valuable creation, you should. Valuable is subjective, however, as your work might be important to you but not necessarily earn you money. Either way, if the work is original enough to fit into the requirements for copyrighting, it might benefit you to move forward with the formal copyrighting porcess. Perhaps the better question is: when should I not obtain a copyright?
Well, the fortunate reality is you may already have a copyright and not even know it. Just as with trademarks, copyrights may innately exist, which means you’ll own the rights to them! Perhaps you wrote a short story. Do you have to get it formally copyrighted in order to protect it from being misused by others? No – and you shouldn’t. As long as you can prove you wrote the story and the writing process involved skill and originality, you’ll probably make it out of court okay. However, if you register your copyright, your chances are even better. A registered copyright is a wonderful, compelling piece of evidence and it even allows a copyright owner to sue for more damages. So if you have a high chance of ending up in court, you might as well save yourself some trouble down the road and register your copyright.
If you want more security and exclusive rights to your copyright, it’s best to obtain one in a formal way. Especially if the work in question was created “for hire,” you’ll want to obtain a copyright so as to encourage proper use of it. For instance, a composer might write a concerto, but does that mean he or she has exclusive rights to the concerto? Not always – the composer might be for hire and thus the copyright transfers to another. If this is the situation you’re dealing with, you will definitely want to obtain a copyright.
Copyright law is quite extensive, but hopefully now that you’ve grazed the surface of it, you have a better idea about whether or not to pursue a copyright.