Does your business run and maintain a website? Does it create or license website or other content? Does it run and implement software? If you’ve answered yes to these questions, but haven’t yet considered the importance of copyright to your business, here are 10 tips to ring in a safe and proactive 2017.

  1. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) imposes strict piracy “anti-circumvention” measures meant to protect copyright holders from copyright infringement on the internet. But because the DMCA captures an otherwise large swath of internet service providers who do not have control over what content is posted to or distributed from their websites, the DMCA has a “safe harbor” provision that protects service providers from incurring legal liability in copyright infringement actions. If you qualify for the DMCA Safe Harbor, you must register your company as a Designated Agent for Service of Process at the Copyright Office to benefit from the Safe Harbor protections. To learn more about the DMCA, read this recent white paper.
  1. Unsure how copyright applies to your business? Continue your own copyright education and task someone within your company to keep abreast of the latest developments in copyright protection and compliance.
  1. Develop a written copyright policy or copyright guidelines. Have the same copyright questions arisen again and again in your organization? Year end is an ideal time to compile nagging questions and prepare short practical answers. Circulate copyright Q&As to your colleagues or post them to your intranet site. Having a copyright knowledge database may help your organization better comply with copyright laws, and help you identify how you can improve or update your policies or guidelines.
  1. Do you create content that you distribute to the public? Your content may be a “work” that qualifies for copyright protection. Although copyright registration is voluntary in most countries, consider registering your works with your country’s copyright office. Rather than registering individual works, register a group or collection of works produced during the year to save time and registration fees. While the grant of copyright arises automatically, copyright registration is necessary if you plan to enforce your rights through legal action.
  1. Have you licensed content outside of your organization? Prepare a database of all content your organization has licensed. Whether it’s an image to use on a promotional brochure, or content from a large electronic database, include all content in a single searchable database that allows you to quickly and easily locate that content and determine what rights you have in it.
  1. Review your license agreements and create an “ultimate” list of protections and guarantees that your organization needs from its license agreements. Do you need remote access or the right to share a PDF file? Do you need to make print-outs, or post articles to your intranet? What about using portions of the database for internal education or external seminars? Use the list to set the parameters for your future license negotiations.
  1. Consider your 2017 budget for permissions, licenses and copyright training. Consult with subject matter experts in your organization to understand their needs and preferences. Prepare a budget and ensure you have the funds you need to meet your copyright management goals. Brainstorm how to get the copyright message to your colleagues and employees. Often, recurring lunches or coffee chats with a diverse group of internal stakeholders and speakers from photography, library services, web design or other professional disciplines with copyright expertise can help sensitize your office to important copyright issues without overburdening your team with cold policy documents or rote lectures.
  1. Review your agreements with consultants. Does your company expect to retain copyright ownership in consulting reports? Make sure that this is clearly stated in your agreement and, if necessary, provide for an assignment of rights to your organization. If consultants own their works, review the rights your organization retains in any consultant work. If you are a consultant, review and understand the rights you have in your work.
  1. Undergo an intellectual property (IP) audit. It’s important to know that the content and computer software you are using is legal and properly licensed. Also, an IP audit will identify the IP that you own. Armed with that knowledge, you can then learn how to market, license and/or profit from leveraging your IP.
  1. Set up a mechanism for monitoring the legal use of your own online content on an international basis. This can be as simple as regularly undertaking search engine searches. But you can also hire a professional who specializes in finding unauthorized uses of content. Piracy is not only the domain of the software and entertainment industries. You may be surprised to find that your individual or organization’s rights are being exploited, and that your works are being used and perhaps even sold without your permission.

Copyright is a value-add opportunity for every business, and the best benefits are obtained by acting proactively to ascertain ownership and keep the copyright assets in ready order for offensive or defensive play.

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Photo of Adriane M. Scola Adriane M. Scola

Adriane is an IP and technology attorney who uses creativity and common sense to solve difficult IP issues for our clients. She is a registered patent attorney and helps clients obtain patents for a range of technologies including medical devices, software and electronics, and various mechanical and wearable designs. She also counsels clients on IP transactions and IP litigation.

Before joining Lane Powell, Adriane clerked for the Honorable Ricardo S. Martinez in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington and interned under the general counsel of a privately-held Seattle biotech company. Adriane was also an advanced graduate student in human genetics and anthropology, and has over seven years of bench experience in life science research.

Photo of Katherine C. Spelman Katherine C. Spelman

Kate Spelman has more than 30 years of experience providing strategic advice, design and implementation counsel for large, mid-sized and startup companies on copyright, trademark, trade secret and patent matters, both nationally and internationally, and has a special focus on media, licensing and mass digitization issues.

She advises clients on the development, production, sale and defense of work related to emerging content distribution strategies and challenges, special issues in news reporting including repurposing content, and firewall and paywall configuration in light of changes in the fair use defense.

Kate is a frequent speaker on the progress of emerging copyright and digital publishing issues, and has advised authors, nonprofit and for-profit publishers, and internet service providers on the new language and provisions of the changed, global distribution environment. She is also a member of the advisory group for the American Law Institute’s Restatement of the Law of Copyright project. She has represented large digital publishing companies in international distribution agreements as well as represented developers and designers who are building and launching tools for online transmissions, storytelling, expression and art.

Additionally, Kate has experience assisting clients with Open Source licensing issues, including Open Source integrated licenses, audits, mergers and acquisitions due diligence, and compliance negotiations. She also helps clients design independent holding companies in the U.S. and in offshore intellectual property asset management. Kate has experience with intellectual property asset audits, and has assisted companies in proactive and reactive regulatory reporting requirements.