Almost every business, especially a small or medium one, blooms on top of a foundation which is based on innovation. This means that every entrepreneur needs to deal with a number of legal issues, one of them certainly being a matter of copyright. When you register a copyright for an original piece of work, it means that you have full control over it – you can reproduce it and sell it in order to gain profit.
It is important to note that copyright protects intellectual property in its intangible form. It isn’t directly connected to the physical work that it is related to. What this means is that someone may own your product and do with it whatever they please, as long as it doesn’t cross a certain line. This line is crossed when they start reproducing your product or some of its elements and using them as their own in any way.
This is most commonly related to art, but it also includes software, household appliances, movies, music recordings, and the like. In terms of business operations, it also covers legal documents, emails, letters, articles, drawings, plans, photographs, etc.
Once someone infringes your copyright, it can sometimes be a nuisance, while at other times it can be a big problem that requires serious and strict legal action.
What copyright doesn’t cover?
However, it is very important that you are aware of what copyright does and does not cover. Certain assets such as your business name or logo cannot be copyrighted. This is the case when you need to use a different kind of protection, which is a trademark. There are essential differences between these two.
Furthermore, business ideas or practices cannot be copyrighted. This also includes material inventions such as machines, drugs, plants, and so on. This is yet another case where you need a whole different kind of way of protection. Such things are protected by a patent. However, there are still certain aspects that you can register a copyright for, such as blueprints or information gathered during research.
Finally, you need to be aware of the fact that there is such a thing as “fair use” when it comes to copyright. Generally, fair use can be divided into two groups: criticism/comment and parody. The first group is also characterized by the ability to quote certain information in publications and reports or use it in court.
How can copyright infringement be detrimental to your business?
The most common and most problematic case of copyright infringement for a business is known as misleading and deceptive conduct. Such a situation happens when a particular party that is your competition decides to use a brand, packaging, or any other indication that is very much like yours. It can also include when such a party states something or behaves in a way that is false, misleading the customer and damaging your business in the process.
There are two ways that you can approach such a situation. The first is via a misleading and deceptive conduct dispute resolution. If this kind of approach doesn’t prove to be enough, then you might have to choose the other option which is litigation.
Usually, every company first attempts the former way of solving the situation. This is because an alternative dispute resolution (abbreviated as ADR) like mediation or negotiation can have a much better outcome for both parties in terms of possible damage to the company’s brand, image, and business conduct. In any case, it would be wise to seek legal counsel in any of these situations.
For starters, you and your lawyer can write and attempt to send a letter of demand or a warning notice to the other party. This is a great way to open the lines of communication between you if it is something that both parties are up for. Furthermore, it may lead to a kind of settlement that will be favorable to you and not prolong the legal dispute. It is good to know that this works most of the time. The infringer will either realize that what they have done is illegal or they will back away due to being as aware as you are how detrimental any further proceedings can be to both sides.However, sometimes the other party will attempt to push on as far as they can. This is when you have no choice but to go for a more aggressive approach, which is litigation. You have to sit down with your lawyer and carefully plan out the stages that are to come. While it is unavoidable at this point, this course of action can be quite detrimental to both sides, even if you win the dispute. Due to it being taken to court, it will become common knowledge, which may affect the opinion of a great number of your customers, even though you are the party that has been damaged by another’s injurious conduct.
Why do certain businesses have different takes on copyright infringement?
When asking the big question of who gets harmed by copyright infringement, you can come across opposing answers. When it comes down to debate, especially considering an industry such as the media, there are actually two waves of thought. On one side, a great number of businesses will point out that copyright infringement has a detrimental effect not only on their own business processes but the economy and the public in general. However, there is also another side which claims that by loosening copyright laws, information becomes a lot more accessible. In result, they argue, it can turn out to be a lot more beneficial not only to artists themselves but also to the public.
The first group is most commonly populated by those who are part of the industries that most commonly deal with copyright infringement. This includes media, publishing, entertainment, and journalism. They will often argue that copyright infringement is the root cause of the downfall of a whole lot of big newspaper and music industries, as well as an extremely detrimental influence on the publishing and film industries. In fact, they claim that such businesses find themselves in a situation where new creations are no longer affordable because not enough consumers provide them with the necessary amount of cash to be able to continue.
The other side is more diverse. The most common wave of thought is that limiting the free flow of information is actually one of the major factors that slow down the progression of culture and science. However, there are also such businesses that see copyright infringement as a kind of opportunity. This is the case with, for example, big software industries. They argue that they would rather have people illegally download their products than the ones that the competition has to offer. This point of view is supported by the optimistic point of view that a great number of people who use their software illegally will be impressed and become dedicated to it. As a result, they will then purchase the next version that comes out. A lot of people argue that Microsoft benefits a lot from illegal downloads because it gives their operating system a strong edge against Linux, which is open-source and free.
Even in the music industry, where you have strong opponents of copyright infringement, a lot of people believe that curious listeners who come across music releases that interest them enough are going to end up purchasing them in the long run.
All in all, one can ascertain that the answer might lie somewhere in the middle. On one hand, businesses certainly don’t want anyone else to use their own creations as a way to draw attention to themselves and confuse and misguide the consumers. Copyright infringement is always a serious matter that is detrimental to your company when a competitor commits misleading and deceptive conduct. The market is an extremely competitive arena, and you don’t want to lose the edge that you have over other companies by not protecting what is rightfully yours.
However, when it comes to illegal downloads, some businesses believe that it can actually be beneficial to them. They often come up with very enticing and favorable offers, so that the persons who have been using their products illegally might be interested in purchasing them once they have become devoted to them and decide that they might want to support the business in some way.Still, it all heavily depends on the industry. In other words, nobody is saying that you should allow copyright infringement, only that there is a constant debate on how exactly it can affect different kinds of businesses. In any case, you should register a copyright for your creations, so that you are able to make the kind of decision that is favorable to you once another party crosses the line. As we have previously discussed, there are not only various ways to look at copyright infringement, but also different solutions for the disputes when you find yourself in such a situation.