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For authors and writers, life has gotten a lot more complicated lately.
The Internet has opened access to millions of new readers, but it has also increased the risk of piracy and plagiarism. E-books and DIY services have changed the publishing game. Intellectual property rights are in flux.
Throughout all this, Olive & Olive has represented writers of all types – from first-time screenwriters to accomplished novelists.
The landscape might have changed since 1957, when our founder opened the first IP practice in what is now called the Research Triangle of North Carolina, but our approach hasn’t. Then and now, we’ve offered top-line IP advice and sound business counsel.
As an author or writer, your primary form of intellectual property protection is copyright, which gives you exclusive rights over the original works you create. If someone wants to use your work, they need your permission (ideally in writing). You may require or request payment in exchange for reproduction rights.
You may also want to think about trademark protection as you establish a brand. Why? Do you want to see another author using your name or pen name on books you didn’t write? Do you want to see your book series co-opted by a different author, so that folks who think they are getting a new book in your series actually buy someone else’s book? If you’ve got a website, do you want others to copy the clever title you created for your domain?
Obtaining a copyright doesn’t require any extra work on your part. The copyright exists (and you, as the author, own it) as soon as you have created your work and saved it in a tangible form—on your computer, on paper, or on any other perceptible medium. You can immediately start using a copyright notice, too, to let the world know the work is yours.
Similarly, a trademark exists when you start using your brand. The use itself creates the right. And you can immediately start using a “common law” trademark notice—the letters TM or SM—to claim your right. (But for trademarks, there’s a wrinkle … you need to be sure you actually have the right to the mark, or you could be facing an infringement suit.)
If you don’t take extra steps to secure your rights, you could be in trouble. Just like recording the deed to your house, copyright registration establishes a public record of your claim.
With a copyright registration, you can sue infringers (which, if you’re a U.S. citizen, you can’t do without registration). A registration that’s obtained soon after the work is written allows you to take legal action against infringement, and it may entitle you to some extra benefits: enhanced damages, plus attorney fees if you have to sue.
If you become involved in a copyright dispute and you don’t have a registered copyright, you may win the case but actually be in a hole because of having to pay attorney’s fees. If you have a registered copyright, you could have your legal fees paid for, and you might actually get some money back for all of your trouble.
An added benefit: simply having a registration is often enough to make potential infringers think twice before copying your work.
Trademarks, too, bring extra benefits once registered. Our trademark attorneys can answer all your questions. And we can perform a trademark clearance search to keep you out of infringement trouble.
We write publishing contracts. We negotiate publishing contracts. We teach about publishing contracts. And we know what rights you need before you publish.
We help you think through clauses in traditional publishing contracts. We discuss the pros and cons of self-publishing. We educate you on the issues connected with publishing in unique formats such as anthologies and literary journals.
Our services include:
It’s your great creation. We’ll help keep it safe. And we’ll give it solid legal protection, including guarding it against infringement.
Olive & Olive’s unique combination of business acumen and IP expertise has served authors and writers for more than 60 years. Need help protecting your work, getting it out to the public, and making sure you’re not cheated in the process? Contact us and let’s talk.