A copyright is your business's best defensive against the unauthorized use of the intellectual property and original works you create.
Unless it was created as part of a "work for hire" arrangement", your created content is automatically copyrighted.
But to bolster the legal strength of copyrights, individuals and businesses often register them with the U.S. government's Copyright Office. Federal registration provides a basis for legal proof of ownership and can play an important role in protecting your material against claims of copyright infringement.
However, a standard U.S. copyright doesn't enjoy universal, international protection. An international copyright doesn't exist since copyrights laws vary from one foreign jurisdiction to the next. To protect the exclusive rights to your original content overseas, there several other steps and requirements that need to be performed.
The process for protecting your copyrighted material abroad can be complicated and confusing. Many countries participate in international copyright treaties and conventions that streamline copyright protection in foreign territories, but you can't automatically assume that your copyright will be protected outside of the U.S. Before you take any action, you will need to research the intellectual property laws for each foreign jurisdiction, starting with the information contained on the Copyright Office's website at www.copyright.gov.
Strategies for International Copyrights
- If you plan to sell, distribute, or source your work in a foreign country, it's recommended that you complete a formal registration or filing process for each country in which you do business. You can find information about filing processes on the World Intellectual Property Organization website at www.wipo.int.
- In some cases, foreign countries may not require any additional registration. But legally enforcing your copyright in foreign courts may be challenging, so for high value content, it's worth the time to do everything possible to reinforce your exclusive ownership rights in each foreign jurisdiction.
- Given the complexities involved with international copyrighting, many businesses find it useful to engage the services of a qualified attorney with international copyrighting experience. These individuals specialize in protecting intellectual property overseas and understand the nuances of multiple foreign jurisdictions.