At some point during your journey as a creative, you’ll need to decide whether to copyright your work. Whether you are a photographer, a writer, a sound engineer, or fine artist, having your work copyrighted can provide you with protections and will determine how your work is used and how you are paid for it. But what might you need to know before copyrighting your work, especially if you are based in Chicago? This article provides a primer on the top five things to consider when copyrighting a work in the city.

Understanding the Basics of Copyright

Copyright is a form of legal protection given to the creator of an original work. It is important to note that copyright does not protect ideas or facts, only the form or manner in which ideas and facts are expressed. Copyright is available for a variety of artistic works, including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works such as architecture, jewelry, clothing, and graphic arts. The owner of a copyright has exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, publicly perform, and display the work, as well as create derivative works from it.

The process of copyrighting something may seem daunting, but understanding the basics of the process is relatively simple. The first step is registering the work with the United States Copyright Office. Typically, copyright protection begins as soon as a work is created in a fixed, tangible form. Once you have registered your work with the Copyright Office, you will receive an official copyright certificate, which is proof of your ownership.

Understanding the Basics of Chicago Copyright Law

While there aren’t any particular requirements for a work to qualify for copyright protection in Chicago, understanding the basics of Chicago’s copyright law is important when precisely determining how to protect your work. The Copyright Act of 1976 defines the scope and duration of copyright law, and it serves as the basis of local copyright law in Chicago.

One important consideration is that works created after January 1, 1978 are protected for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years. For works created prior to 1978, the term of copyright varies depending on the date of creation and when the copyright was registered. It is important to note that in certain circumstances, works created before 1978 are not eligible for renewal and the copyright may have expired. It may also be possible for a creative to be entitled to specific copyright protections that may not fall under the scope of the Copyright Act, such as state common law or state statutory rights. If you’re based in Chicago and looking to understand these nuances, it may be beneficial to contact an experienced attorney who can help you better understand any unique rights that may apply to your work.

Importance of Choosing the Right Copyright Notice

Under the Copyright Act, it is no longer necessary to include a copyright notice in order for your work to be eligible for copyright protection. That being said, placing a copyright notice on your work provides certain legal advantages. The copyright notice should include the symbol ©, your name (or company name if applicable), and the year of first publication. It’s best practice to include a copyright notice on every page that shows your work.

Importance of Understanding Digital Copyright

Many creatives regularly use digital media outlets such as the internet, websites, and email to make their work available for viewers and potential clients. Because of the immediacy and broad reach of these digital outlets, it’s important to know that copyright laws apply to digital works just as they do for traditionally published works.

For instance, when posting your work online or making it available to potential clients, it is important to understand how the property rights of third party digital sites may be impacted. Similarly, utilizing third party website templates may require a review of service providers’ terms of service to determine their copyright and property rights over the template. Further steps can also be taken to secure your digital rights through certain digital works contracts or electronic signatures.

Engaging an Experienced Copyright Attorney

When copyrighting your work, it is critical to understand all the potential steps and considerations that come with the process, especially if you are based in Chicago and your work may be subject to particular state or local laws. Engaging an experienced attorney who is an expert in copyright law can provide tremendous support in the process and make certain that your work is properly safeguarded.

UpCounsel offers a network of experienced lawyers and legal professionals who can immediately provide the support and insight you need to protect your work.


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