Tuesday, June 7, 2011

About Trademarks and Copyrights

TM vs. SM vs. ® vs. © Copyright © laws protect ownership of things like music, writing, artwork, photographs, and other "original works of authorship." Copyright protection is automatic and may last for over 100 years. However, not everything can be copyrighted, and some copyrights expired prior to 1976 laws. The "circle-c" mark has been "optional" since the 1970s, but is properly used with a date and identification of the author/owner. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, it is a federal crime to remove or alter a copyright notice when you're making copies, regardless of whether the copies are lawful or not. Trademark laws protect "words, names, symbols, sounds, or colors that distinguish goods and services from those manufactured or sold by others and to indicate the source of the goods. Trademarks, unlike patents, can be renewed forever as long as they are being used in commerce." Unregistered trademarks are a bit harder to enforce than registered, but last as long as they are being used. Trademarks may be registered in states or countries or both. The (TM) symbols for TM and SM are completely optional and require no registration. However, there are advantages to having a state or federal trademark registration, including the fact that it will tell others when you first used your brand, which can be important in priority disputes. Valuable marks justify getting professional advice.

To learn more - and there is a LOT of info - check out the United States Patent and Trademark Office Home Page (their glossary is a good place to start) and the U.S. Copyright Office in the Library of Congress. Check out video library (http://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/process/TMIN.jsp) Here is more input: Depending on your local state laws, trademark registrations have different lifespans and can either be renewed or not. If a trademark is registered it is only registered for a certain period of time and then the owner decides to renew it or not. As long as you continue using a trademark, and were the first to use it, you can enforce it in state or federal courts, whether or not it is now or has ever been registered in a state or federal proceeding. Most state copyright laws were preempted by federal laws passed in the 1970s, but may still be important on certain types of works, such as "sound recordings" made prior to the changes.

There is also a "circle-P" mark on some older phono records, meaning they are covered by an international phonograph duplication treaty. The © copyright notice and ® registration mark have nothing to do with state registrations. Any time you claim rights in a trademark, you may use the "TM" (trademark on goods) or "SM" (service mark) designation to alert the public to your claim, regardless of whether you have filed an application with the state or USPTO. However, you may use the federal registration symbol "®" only after the federal USPTO actually issues a registration, and not while an application is pending or after registration expires. Also, you may use the registration symbol with the registered mark only on or in connection with the goods and/or services listed in the federal trademark registration. Any major change to the mark or the goods/services will require another registration. Federal registrations require periodic maintenance fees (i.e., every 10 years).

Creative Commons

You may have seen a new circled double cc notation accompanying content on the web, in video, or print.

Creative Commons is a balance within traditional “all rights reserved” settings that copyright law creates. Creatve Commons tools give content creators, companies and institutions a streamlined, standardized way to grant copyright permission to their content and work. The combination of creative commons tools allows users a vast digital commons, and a pool of content that can be copied, distributed, edited and built upon, within the auspice of copyright law. Below are a brief listing of CC licenses.

The Licenses

  • Attribution
    CC BY

    This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered. Recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials.

    View License Deed | View Legal Code

  • Attribution-ShareAlike
    CC BY-SA

    This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. This license is often compared to “copyleft” free and open source software licenses. All new works based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also allow commercial use. This is the license used by Wikipedia, and is recommended for materials that would benefit from incorporating content from Wikipedia and similarly licensed projects.

    View License Deed | View Legal Code

  • Attribution-NoDerivs
    CC BY-ND

    This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to you.

    View License Deed | View Legal Code

  • Attribution-NonCommercial
    CC BY-NC

    This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.

    View License Deed | View Legal Code

  • Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

    This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.

    View License Deed | View Legal Code

  • Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs

    This license is the most restrictive of our six main licenses, only allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.

    View License Deed | View Legal Code