Intellectual property is a term used to describe any creation of the human mind that could be considered valuable and therefore monetized. This can include everything from written works like books and poetry to music and movies and even trade secrets like recipes, manufacturing processes, and much, much more. Because these creations are so valuable, the laws that protect them are extremely complex and strive to reserve the rights that those who create this property have over them. Here are five things you most likely didn’t know about intellectual property laws.
COPYRIGHTS DON’T NEED TO BE ENFORCED, TRADEMARKS DO
Copyrights for creative works don’t necessarily need to be enforced by the copyright holder in order to maintain their protection. This is why you often see so many fan-adaptions of pop culture icons, such as the Star Trek, Harry Potter, and Game of Thrones franchises. Often these works created by fans actually boost the value of the copyright holder’s original work without risking losing the copyright, particularly because they increase its space in the public conscience. On the other hand, trademark holders might actually lose their trademark if they don’t enforce it, especially if it’s used to market a similar product.
IT’S NOT ALWAYS FAIR USE JUST BECAUSE YOU DON’T SELL IT
This is something that frequently comes into question when it comes to copyrights, notably written works and today with music. It’s often assumed that simply giving something away without profiting or monetizing off it in any way makes it “fair use,” or a protected use of intellectual property, but that isn’t always true. This is a large issue that online video giant YouTube has to deal with non-stop: creators use copyrighted music in their own works, but without the permission of the copyright holders. The question becomes, is the copyrighted music considered “fair use?” The answer is it depends on the nature of the use in the creative work, but in some cases it’s not, and the copyright holder can have your video deleted if they so desire (or worse, attempt to sue for damages).
YOU DON’T HAVE TO REGISTER A COPYRIGHT, BUT IT HELPS
Just a quarter-century ago, you had to register a copyrighted work with the copyright office and include the notice of the copyright in order for your work to actually receive legal protection. That’s no longer true: as soon as you create a work, you’re granted copyright protections over it. However, registering your copyright still has extremely beneficial uses, including being able to prove you’re the owner of a copyright, and notices still serve as a great deterrent to would-be thieves.