Orange County Copyright Attorney
Mandour & Associates, APC is an Orange County copyright law firm. We are a full service orange county intellectual property law firm, so we assist Orange County businesses in relation to trademark and patent issues as well. We have an office conveniently located in Irvine, California and serve Newport Beach, Anaheim, and Costa Mesa. If you are in need of a copyright attorney, please feel free to contact us.
As a business, startup or solopreneur in Orange County, your copyright materials are valuable assets that must be protected. When you stand to earn – or lose – money through this type of intellectual property (IP), it’s smart business strategy to take legal steps to establish ownership, deter infringement and assert your rights when someone infringes on your copyrighted work.
Copyright Registration for Orange County Businesses
Federal law governs copyrights for “original works of authorship.” When you create a copyrightable work and fix it in a tangible medium, the law protects your rights to this creation. So, simply writing your story on paper, taking a photograph, or creating a website and publishing it on the internet, fixes these works as required for copyright protection. This is the basic common law method of establishing a copyright. But for maximum protection of your copyrights, formal registration is advised.
Advantages of Copyright Registration
When you obtain copyright registration from the U.S. Copyright Office, you more firmly establish your rights to your works than when you rely on basic common law copyright. Some of these benefits include:
- Establishment of a public record of your copyright ownership, which may discourage infringement;
- The ability to sue for infringement in federal court;
- The right to an injunction to halt copyright infringement; and
- Potential to pursue additional damages in an infringement action such as attorney’s fees and up to $150,000 in statutory damages for each action of infringement.
As you can see, registering your copyright, and doing so quickly, provides valuable benefits to copyright holders.
Registering Your Copyright
To successfully register your copyright, you must ensure than your submitted material is an original work that falls within a category of copyrightable material. These classifications include:
- Literary works
- Visual arts
- Performing arts
- Motion pictures
Due to technological advancements and the growth of digital materials, the types of materials that qualify under these categories are extensive and growing. To better understand what you may register for copyright, it’s more helpful to identify the forms of works that are not eligible for copyright registration.
- Ideas, methods, systems, concepts
- Domain names, short phrases, slogans, titles
- Variations of lettering, colors, or ornamentation
Protection for some of these non-copyrightable materials may be available under trademark or patent law. However, ideas or concepts with nothing more generally cannot be protected.
Copyright Infringement Lawyers in Orange County
As a copyright holder, you are the sole entity allowed to reproduce, display, distribute, transmit, perform and sell your works. You may authorize others to perform some or all these actions through transfer or licensing, but without those permissions, anyone who performs those actions with your copyrighted materials may be guilty of copyright infringement. An infringer violates your exclusive copyright rights and undermines the value of your work. The accused infringer’s best defense in those cases may be that the alleged infringing work is not substantially similar to the original work, or that the fair use defense applies.
Determining Copyright Infringement
To prove copyright infringement, you must first prove you own a valid copyright to the material at issue. For common law copyrights that are not registered with the copyright office, this may be difficult. However, if you’ve registered your copyright, you are already the presumptive owner of the work. Registration also makes it much easier to establish the date of copyright. This is important, as it can show that the infringement occurred after you created your copyrighted work. And this is one of the requirements in establishing infringement.
Typically, the hardest part of determining copyright infringement is proving that the infringer copied your work. The accused is not likely to admit to the infringement. Instead, they may claim that it is an original work or that the works are not substantially similar. To overcome these objections, you’ll need to show the following:
- The infringer had access to your original copyrighted materials before they developed their work. Public availability of your book, song, play, web content or other original work can help support this argument.
- The similarities between your work and the infringer’s work are so substantial that the natural and legal conclusion is that they copied your material. This is often a common area of contention because courts must determine whether there was appropriation of some of your work and if that use equals infringement.
Fair Use in Copyright Law
Copyright law defines some exceptions to the exclusive rights granted to copyright owners. Specifically, there are certain times that unauthorized use of a copyright is considered fair use and thus permissible. Uses such as news reporting, teaching, criticism, comment, are examples of activities that may qualify as fair use.
If an accused infringer can prove that the way they copied your material falls under a fair use defense, they can defeat your infringement claim. Some of the things that a court considers in these cases include:
- How the material was used and in what manner such as whether the use was commercial in nature
- The type of works copied
- The amount of material copied and how important it is to the whole piece
- The effects the copy and use of your materials had on the value of your work and potential markets for your work.
Copyright Litigation Attorneys in Orange County
If you own a copyright and learn that someone may be infringing on it, it’s time to contact a copyright litigation attorney to review your case and decide whether a lawsuit is advisable.
Choosing Copyright Litigation
After seeking legal counsel, the first step in a copyright infringement claim is usually to inform the accused infringer (defendant) that you own the copyright to the materials they’re selling, distributing or otherwise infringing. With a Cease and Desist letter, you can notify the infringer of your copyright ownership, demand that they stop the infringement, and convey your intention to file a copyright infringement lawsuit if they fail to comply.
If your letter doesn’t stop the infringement or you learn that the defendant has been greatly enriched using your material, copyright litigation in federal court may be the next step. With a successful copyright infringement action, you can stop the defendant’s use and sale of your works and you may be able to recover your financial losses with the award of legal damages.
When deciding on whether to pursue a lawsuit, you and your copyright attorney will closely examine the circumstances of your claim and weigh the benefits against cost and time. Some of the factors you must consider include:
- Are you still within the statute of limitations of 3 years?
- Does your copyrighted material have financial value?
- Has the defendant made money off your works, and if so, how much?
- What financial damages have you suffered?
- How long has the infringement activity been going on?
- Does it appear that the defendant infringed willfully?
- Can they claim fair use or any other valid defense?
These and other considerations can help you and your copyright lawyer assess the advisability of a copyright lawsuit.
Potential Copyright Infringement Damages
Obviously, the goal of a civil lawsuit for copyright infringement is to stop the offending behavior and to recover the money you’ve lost due to the defendant’s actions. Sometimes, you can accomplish this before you go to trial through settlement. Your copyright attorney can help you assess the value of your claim as you proceed through litigation and advise on settlement opportunities if they exist.
In a successful copyright infringement lawsuit, the following penalties and damages are possible:
- Court order to stop the infringement (injunction)
- Seizure and destruction of the infringing materials
- Profits that the defendant earned through infringement
- Statutory damages established by copyright law. Higher statutory damage amounts may be available for registered works.
- Attorney fees and court costs. Timely copyright registration also impacts this award.
Mandour & Associates – Orange County Copyright Lawyers
At Mandour & Associates, our lawyers are well-versed in every facet of copyright law. We can assist you with copyright registration and will fight to protect your rights in the event of copyright infringement or litigation.
In copyright litigation matters, our team will advise you of your rights, explain your options and give you an honest, informed opinion of your chances of success and the wisdom of pursuing a claim. When a copyright infringement lawsuit is the smart option, we deliver.
If you need assistance with your copyright issue, please contact us today.