Q. I have finally finished writing my e-book about the best hiking paths in Costa Rica and would like to copyright it before publishing it on the Internet. What do I need to do to protect myself? What legal documents will I need to file and where? How long does a copyright last?
A. Your question applies to the law of intellectual property. Intellectual property covers three distinct forms of protection. Copyright protects expression, trademark protects names, and patents protect ideas. So, in your circumstances, you would be correct in wanting to protect your e-book through the law of copyright.
How Long Copyright Protection Lasts
A copyright provides protection and confers exclusive legal rights for the life of the author plus seventy years. After that time period expires, the work is considered to fall under the category known as the general domain. There are contractual ways around this however, but the subject would far exceed the scope of your question.
When Your Work Is Legally Protected
Your right to have your e-book legally protected occurs immediately upon the creation of your work. That’s right, the moment you placed the last period on the last line of your e-book, technically, your work became your exclusive property to use and exploit as you see fit. It also means only you the author, can legally claim the copyright – even if your work never gets published. What’s more, your work is protected whether or not it contains that familiar copyright symbol you see at the beginning of most literary works.
The law of copyright is perhaps one of the least understood areas of intellectual property law. The right to protect ones property is fundamental to our way of life, which is why it is constitutionally protected. Copyright is derived from property law and applies to all original works of authorship that are fixed in a tangible form of expression. Publishing an e-book qualifies as a tangible form of expression for purposes of copyright protection.
Copyright protection exists literally as you are creating and expressing it. Copyright law not only protects literary forms of expression such as e-books, according to the Copyright Act of 1976, it also protects dramatic, and musical works; pantomimes and choreography; pictorial, graphic and sculptural works; audio-visual works; sound recordings; architectural works and many other forms of expression.
What Copyright Does Not Protect
It’s not what you say that is protected but rather how you have chosen to express it.
Copyright protects the way you have chosen to express your ideas, but does not protect your ideas. It is said that one’s ideas cannot be protected under copyright law. The following items are by their very nature not protected by the law of copyright: ideas, facts, systems, titles and names.
Distinction Between Copyright and Trademark
A trademark protects words, phrases, symbols, or designs that uniquely identify the maker of those products or services alleged to belong to the party asserting the trademark. For example, you cannot decide one day to call your company Apple Computer – even if you have invented a different and unique type of computer. That name has been trademarked to specifically identify a particular computer maker’s ownership of their products. You may choose however to call your Costa Rica publishing company Apple Travel Books – so long as no other publisher has trademarked that particular name for the same use and purpose.
Make Sure To Register Your Copyright
No. Registration of your copyright is completely voluntary. Remember, your legal right comes into being the moment your work is created. Notwithstanding, in the real world of lawsuits and countersuits, you will have to register your copyright should you choose to bring a lawsuit for infringement. However, this is more of a procedural requirement then a substantive one.