The Basics of Copyright
Understanding Copyright Law can be confusing for any business owner or creative professional. In this first part of a five part series, we look at the basics of copyright law and some things to consider when you create content, outsource content, and/or sub-contract anyone to perform work for your business. Take a look at the video below and the transcript of the video is below.
Christi: I am Christi Lowe and I’m here with Tony Biller with Coats and Bennett law firm in Cary. He is an intellectual property attorney and we appreciate you joining us. We’re going to be talking about copyright law and also work for hire so all of you out there that do what we do. Creative professionals what maybe your videographers maybe your photographers maybe are a graphic artist of some sort. These are things that we feel like you should be thinking about when you are doing productions for other agencies like yourself. And so we felt like it was an important topic to address. Can you tell me a little bit. First of all Tony about what is an intellectual property attorney what do you do.
Tony: Well intellectual property attorneys kind of surprisingly do intellectual property law, and the question we get all the time is all what’s intellectual property law. Intellectual property law primarily covers patents trademarks copyrights trade secrets. A lot of issues arising from the Internet such as with internet use URLs. Patents cover the law of useful ideas. Trademarks are basically the law of identity particularly in the marketplace. Copyright is the love of expressions a lot of artists and creative folks spend most of their time dealing with copyright issues. Trade secrets are just what they sound like, spy versus spy things that primarily companies don’t want other companies to know about and all the issues that surround them. Our firm specializes in all of those areas.
Christi: I really appreciate you doing this today, and what brought this on is you know there are a lot of folks such as myself who will either hire subcontractors or vendors to produce creative work for us and in turn we also then work for other creative agencies. So for example, I’ve shot video and photos for nationwide companies that do real estate listings and they’ll hire us to go out and shoot their photos, their videos, and their drone aerials for them. I’ve done work for other marketing agencies that have customers who need a video production done and will go out and take care of that for them. So in today’s world there are a lot of these companies that will subcontract work out to folks like usted to to service their clients and so I felt like this was a good opportunity to kind of talk a little bit about who owns the rights to both the raw footage of the raw product and the edited product. So I don’t know where you want to start and picking up with that, but in terms of rights to create works kind of what are things that what does the law say?
Tony: What do we need. That’s a surprisingly loaded question.
Tony: So copyrights are so simple in concept and remarkably complex in application and there’s very few areas of copyright law where this doesn’t play out. In a very simple way what you think would be a very simple and straightforward topic, and it starts out that way, can become very quickly muddled and counter-intuitive particularly in the areas of work for hire kind of taking a thousand foot view. Copyrights are governed by federal law and federal law only. In fact, federal law is very jealous of copyrights. And if a state tries to regulate copyrighted content the federal law will actually preempt to take control. So you’ll find no state law and if you ever want to litigate copyright infringement it’s can only be litigated in federal courts. The reason I say that is because all of these issues you’ve just touched on are governed governed by the Copyright Act which is of a federal law. Most people think hey if I pay for it I own it and that’s a very reasonable thing to think and that’s how the law works for the vast majority of commercial transactions. But that’s not how the vast majority of copyright transactions work and it doesn’t make sense when you think about it. So the Federal Copyright Act says that copyrights vest in the author, which means if you create it you own it. Well then what happens if you sell it? Well it depends on what you’re selling. If you’re not expressly selling the copyright the author still owns the copyright.
Christi: So if I’m if I’m an artist and I paint make an oil painting and I sell the oil painting to you, you don’t own the copyright and you have no right to reproduce or copy the copyright essentials, a very simple right?
Tony: It’s a right against copying. It’s not a right, it’s not a monopoly right. In that expression. In fact if you independently created the identical painting that I made and it was truly independent of mine but identical there’s no copyright infringement as there is no copying. [00:05:17][32.9]