Intellectual property piracy is when any work is duplicated or used without proper authorization from the original creator.

Importance of Copyrights

Writers and publishers rely heavily on copyrights to protect their work and livelihood. In our current modern age of easy, quick access of information, copyrights are becoming more and more necessary. Artistic works can be downloaded and distributed in a matter of minutes leaving it up to intellectual property (IP) law to protect the rights of creators to benefit from and retain ownership of their works.

If we want authors to continue to write and artists and musicians to continue to create, we need to protect their rights to do so. IP laws encourage and give incentives for creativity in the marketplace.

Copyrights enforce the ownership of original works. This means that the author or creator of any original work can have control over how their work makes profits. Authors may choose to allow others, like publishing companies, to profit from their work, but with an agreement that royalties will be paid. Some creators may sign over the ownership of their work entirely, but copyright laws protect their right to do so.

Publishers and authors enter into these kinds of agreements regularly. An author signs over the rights for their work to the publisher so that the publisher may distribute their work. In return, the author is paid a percentage of the sales the publisher makes.

What Do Copyrights Protect?

As a type of IP law, copyrights protect the following forms of creative works:

  • Literary (poems, novels, short stories, etc)
  • Musical (songs, compositions, etc)
  • Dramatic (plays, movies, television shows, etc)
  • Artistic (architecture, sculpture, painting, etc)

Copyrights do not protect the following:

  • Ideas (look into patents for this type of IP protection)
  • Facts
  • Systems
  • Processes or methods of operation (covered by patents)

In order for a copyright to protect a work, it must be in tangible form. You can't copyright the idea for a book, but you can copyright a book once it's written.

When Do Copyrights Begin?

Copyrights take effect once a work is completed in a physical form. Books are protected by copyrights even before they are officially published, they just need to be written down or saved on a computer or another device. Authors and creators do not necessarily need to register their works with the United States Copyright Office in order to have them protected.

Registering a creative work with the copyright office, either in the United States or any country, is a good idea because it does provide a public record of the finished work and a certificate that shows the registration. If an author or artist is particularly concerned of IP theft, they may choose to register their work which will give them an advantage should they need to enforce their copyright.

If an author hopes to win in a case against any copyright infringers, they will want to register their work with the copyright office. Copyrights registered within five years of the completion of the work are considered prime evidence in court and therefore are enough to show that you are the original author of the work.

Most publishing companies will register any works that they publish with the copyright office, but independent publishing companies might not. Either way, it is always wise for authors to check with their publishing company to be sure that their work is registered.

Digital Piracy Issues

Intellectual property piracy has become a big issue in the modern corporate and creative worlds. IP theft is rampant and making it increasingly difficult for companies to profit from even the most original creations. Songs can be downloaded and distributed without the consent of the artist, books can be copied and sold for no profit to the author. Information is at everyone's fingertips which can lead to increased piracy.

One particular area in which piracy is a massive threat is in the computer software industry. Many software companies are bringing in backup by having government agencies partner with them to protect their IP assets. Even massive companies like Microsoft are hurting from the issue of digital piracy.

Technologically-advanced countries like China have digital piracy sweeping their markets. Large percentages of movies, television shows, music, games, and software are pirated.

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