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Copyrights and Licenses

Source: Jessica Jensen, Attorney at Law

A copyright protects your ownership of original works such as literary material, photos,
artwork and music. You can copyright your original work in two ways. First, you can
file for copyright protection with the United States Copyright Office, www.copyright.gov.
Second, you can claim a common law copyright by using the material and documenting
your first use (when, where and how). For example, if your photo first appeared in a
flyer, keep the flyer and record the date. You can put the world on notice that you claim
a copyright by including somewhere in the work the copyright symbol ©, the year and
your full legal name followed by the words “All Rights Reserved.”

A copyright does cannot prevent someone from using your original work, but it provides
a means to prove that you own the material. If you don’t want to register your work
with the U.S. Copyright Office, it can help to document your ownership by mailing the
material you want to copyright to yourself in an envelope with the postal date and then
don’t open the envelope when you receive it. This practice provides a minimum record
of when the work was first completed and how long it has been in your possession.

A license is the right to use the original work of another – essentially, it is permission
and it’s best to get it in writing. Think of the software license you received from
Microsoft or Apple. The license grants you the nonexclusive right to use the software,
but you don’t own the software itself – just a license to use the software. A license can
cover any kind of work, including art, music and literary works.

Next month we’ll cover patents.

Jessica Jensen is an attorney and co-owner of the law firm Jensen Kokis Erwin.

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