Living in the United States of America comes with a variety of benefits, not the least of which is our constitutional rights. Many might seem cut and dry while taken at face value, but our First Amendment is often misunderstood. Free speech is a benefit of being on American soil, but it may be used to defend what is more commonly known as stealing. To protect against theft of things that can’t be physically held in your hands, our government introduced what are known as trademark and copyright protections. These protections help you extensively with keeping your brand safe, but there remains a wealth of misinformation that might lead you to not effectively use your protection. Today, we’re here to help bust the myths about trademark and copyright infringement!
Myth #1: Trademarks And Copyrights Are The Same Thing
Truth: They’re not. Despite trademarks and copyrights both falling under the intellectual property umbrella, they are vastly different. Copyrights cover intellectual works; a copyright can cover a blog post, book, song, or painting. Trademarks indicate registered ownership over a defining characteristic of your business; specific flavorings, sounds, or phrases are all capable of being trademarked.
Myth #2: A Copyright Symbol Needs To Be Present
Truth: Works published after March 1, 1989 do not need to have the copyright symbol present to be considered copyrighted. A work is considered your property (provided you created it) once it is fixed into any tangible form. From the moment you doodle your new logo to it being displayed on behalf of your company, it is your intellectual property and cannot be used without your express permission.
Myth #3: If It’s On The Internet, It’s Free
Truth: It does not matter if you post your work on Facebook, put it on a billboard, or mow it into the grass on your front lawn. No one is able to use your copyrighted works without you saying so, even if it’s on the internet for all the world to see.
Myth #4: A Trademark Is Valid Forever
Truth: Myth #4 is a half-myth. A trademark can technically be valid forever, if you keep up the necessary paperwork. Trademarks require renewal every 10 years or so, and there can be additional requirements depending on the country the trademark was filed for in. The United States requires an ‘Affidavit of Use’, a document required between the fifth and sixth year of a trademark’s existence, in order to maintain it’s status.
Myth #5: Altering The Work Negates The Copyright
Truth: Altering work is still intellectual property theft. Should you decide to write a book about a wizard named ‘Gerry Cotter’ and his magical adventures at a school, you will run into copyright issues from the legal team of J.K. Rowling. Copyright protection extends over all unique work, regardless of medium. Altering an existing work and calling it yours is copyright violation.
Myth #6: It’s Not Violation If It Doesn’t Make Money
Truth: We guarantee that someone who has had their copyright or trademark infringed upon does not care whether or not the thief made money off of it. Using copyrighted or trademarked materials without the express permission of the owner is infringement, regardless of profit.