When people think of copyrights, they usually think of paintings and other works of fine art, novels, and the like. While copyright protection certainly applies to these types of highly expressive works, it also applies to other materials, such as photographs, website graphics and text, menus, store signage, newsletters and mailers, and many other materials that retail businesses use every day to promote their brands and communicate with their customers.
In this information age, obtaining access to the perfect image, song, or graphic for your retail business is only a few clicks away. Unfortunately, with a quick “copy” and “paste,” your business could find itself mired in a difficult and expensive dispute with a copyright owner. This article highlights the basics of copyright law in the United States, the risks of infringement, and a few simple steps to help your business avoid infringing the rights of others.
U.S. Copyright Law in a Nutshell
The United States Copyright Act prohibits the unauthorized use of a “work of authorship.” A work of authorship includes virtually any type of creative expression fixed in tangible form, including news stories, novels, books, movies, television shows, music, photographs, graphic designs, etc. The Copyright Act grants the owner of a work of authorship certain exclusive rights, including the right to copy, display, and perform the work.