Copyrighting in the D

So you have left your plush apartment in New York City, borrowed a few grand from your parents, moved to Detroit, and purchased a four-bedroom mini-mansion in the historic Indian Village neighborhood, with the grand idea of launching the next Google, Twitter, or Instagram. Great. Welcome to the D. But before you dream of being the next social media tycoon, you’d better protect your idea before someone with much more money, clout, or know-how steals your “idea,” gets rich, and leaves you packing to head back to mommy’s couch in the basement.

You have this grand idea, grand project, or great slogan, but you don’t know what to do with it, who to call, or if this is a project you can tackle yourself. Before you begin shelling out thousands for a copyright, trademark, or patent attorney, I want you to understand a few basic concepts regarding what you can copyright and what should have a trademark under the law.

Copyright protection protects original works of “authorship” fixed in a tangible form of expression. This includes literary works, musical works, dramatic works, choreography, pictures, sculptures, sound recordings, audiovisual works, and architectural works.

Copyright protection does not protect works that are not in a physical format, such as titles, names, short phrases, slogans, familiar symbols or designs, mere variations of typography/lettering, lists of ingredients or contents, ideas, procedures, methods, or anything consisting entirely of information that is common property and containing no legal authorship.

Now that you know what you can and can’t copyright, you should understand what your rights are, too. Copyright owners have the exclusive right to reproduce the work or make original copies, and to perform or display work publicly. Under law, you can sue people or companies that infringe upon your copyright. I want Detroit entrepreneurs to know that you have a copyright the moment you create the work. However, if you want to go after the big, bad thief who took your protected work, you can’t sue to protect it until you register the copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. The estimated cost to protect the next big idea is only $35.00. Don’t delay; copyright your work yourself or contact a trusted Detroit attorney.

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