Resolving Copyright Issues

If you are reading this blog because you are trying to resolve a trademark or copyright issue then the question of whether you need a lawyer shouldn’t be on the table. Rather than address that traditional quandary, we suggest that a lawyer consult for your business is an essential first step particularly if you are launching an independent project or becoming part of a franchise. The whole concept of trademarks in a franchise is another entirely different conversation. Every industry is different but let’s look at a popular industry and the things you can do yourself and where advice of counsel is essential.

Copyright Law:

The general rule on copyrighting intellectual property of a book is whether the book has been in the public domain and when. If the book is published and the copyright date is 1922 or before, then the book contents are considered public domain.

The problem comes for books that fit two characteristics—either the book has been published after 1922 (starting 1923 and onwards) or the work has not been published at all.

For any works published starting 1923, the highlights of copyright criteria are this:

  • If the work is published before 1964 without copyright renewal, it is in the public domain.
  • If the work is published before 1978 in the US without formal copyright notice, it is in the public domain.

And if these two conditions are satisfied (work is copyrighted and was renewed), we now enter the area of copyright law that has many content publishers protesting.

Essentially, the current copyright laws (based on the 1976 Copyright Act and the 1998 copyright extension) mean that any works published after 1922 (that have been copyrighted and renewed) cannot enter the public domain until 2019!

The good news is, if this can be called good news, that 2019 onwards, the public domain will start gaining a year’s worth of creative content every year. Further, the latest trends of the electronic reading industry is creating new reasons why the do-it-yourself approach may be great for the content, but the evolving nature of this business makes it even more important to consult an attorney for the new rights that are evolving in the marketplace.

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