Copyrights 101 for Nutrition Professionals
If you own a nutrition practice or are building a health and wellness business, then chances are that you are creating works that are subject to copyright (think blog posts you’ve written, content on your website, program manuals, course modules, etc.). We created this post as a “101” to get insights on what you can copyright, how you copyright it, and what the legal consequences of it the copyright mean to you.
Step 1: Can I Copyright My Work?
Copyrights protect property rights fixed in any tangible medium of expression. It gives the holder the exclusive right to reproduce the work or adapt it into other derivative works. This typically means that the following can be protected by copyright: books, songs, movies, art, blog articles, and other similar works. Notably, copyrights do not protect single words and phrases, book titles, slogans, or headlines. The reader should be aware that copyright protections apply the moment the work is fixed in any tangible medium - it’s automatic!
However, in order to enforce your claim on the work in court, you must file and obtain a copyright with the US copyright office. Generally, unless you expect your work to be widely distributed or something you profit off of, you should probably not go through the hassle of filing a copyright due to the amount of time and money it takes to obtain a copyright.
Step 2: The Requirements
Unlike other intellectual property types, copyrights do not require an extensive search of prior art because the bar for originality is much lower than for, say, a patent. In order to receive a copyright registration, you have to show that the work is both original and fixed. In order to be original, the work must be independently created by the author and have some minimal level of creativity. Bottom line, so long as the work is not copied you should meet the requirement. Finally, in order to meet the fixation requirement, the work just has to be on some sort of medium. This includes paper and ink, canvas and paint, photographic media, video/audio tape, and electronic medium (such as on a webpage).
Step 3: The Application
After you have met the requirements above, the next step is to prepare the application. The online portal to file an application can be found here. You will be asked to provide two of the best copies of the work within 3 months after the work is published. It should also be noted that whatever address you put on the application will be public so you may want to consider putting your business address or to get a PO box. Depending on what you are trying to copyright there will be different forms. You should Form TX for literary works, Form VA for visual arts and Form SR for sound recordings. Generally, you can file only file one application per piece of work; however, there are exceptions that go beyond the scope of this article. If you are trying to copyright multiple works at once you should seek the assistance of an intellectual property attorney.
Step 4: Examination
After your application is filed, the copyright office will examine your application and let you now of any issues (which is generally not the case). Generally, for online applications it takes the Copyright Office about 1.2 months to process the application. For mail in forms, it is about 6.1 months.
Step 5: Copyright Issued and Next Steps
Now that the difficult part is over, let’s talk about what you get with your copyright! Copyrights generally last for 70 years after the author’s death if the work is not made for hire. If the work is made for hire (i.e. work made by employees and assigned to you), the copyright will last the earlier of 120 years after creation or 95 years after first publication.
What you do with your copyright rights is up to you! With your copyright you have the exclusive right to reproduce, adapt, distribute, and display the work. However, your work may be criticized, used for teaching, used for scholarship or commentary under the fair use doctrine.
Moreover, while not required, you may include © symbol on the work to show you have the copyright. Note as well that you can use the © symbol even if your copyright is not registered with the US copyright office.
When the © symbol is used, you should include the © symbol, the year of first publication, and the name of the copyright owner. The function of the symbol is to give notice that the identified work is protected by copyright. It’s not required, but it is recommended to put people on notice that you are claiming ownership to the material and to deter potential infringers.
Step 6: Make Sure to Protect Your Copyright Through Your Contracts
We always recommend making sure that your copywritten material is protected through your contracts. Each of our attorney-drafted contract templates available on Dotted Lines was built with this concept in mind, and our templates will help you make sure that you are protecting your intellectual property rights, including your copywritten material.
Copyrights are one the of easiest forms of protection to receive but also the easiest to overlook. As you write and begin to create more content, it is important to consider whether filing a copyright is right for you!
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