Just about every business owner—whether they know it or not—has created some form of intellectual property (IP) during the life of their company. And this IP is an extremely important part of your business. In fact, valuation experts estimate that IP makes up 40% to 90% of the total value of some companies.
When it comes to IP protection, patents protect inventions, trademarks protect brand names, and copyrights protect a wide range of original creative output, including literary, musical, dramatic, and artistic works (among others). All of this makes copyrights among the most vital and valuable parts of your business.
For instance, if you’re the original creator, all elements of your website—written content, photos, graphics, audio, and video—are eligible for copyright protection. However, if you’re not the original creator of these elements, it’s crucial to have the correct legal agreements in place. If you don’t protect the work created for you by someone else using work-for-hire clauses, you may not actually own the work displayed on your company’s website.
Although registering your work through the U.S. Copyright Office will give you more leverage to enforce your ownership, you don’t need to do this own a copyright—the authorship of the material is enough. In fact, any work created since 1978 is protected for the owner’s lifetime plus 70 additional years. The use of the © symbol is also optional —although this used to be required for enforcement, the law changed in 1989. That said, using the © can still be helpful, as it sends a stronger signal that your work is protected. To do this properly, include the original publication date and your name, for example: © 2018 Jane Doe.