Intellectual property is the area of law that deals with protecting the rights of those who create original works.
It covers everything from original plays and novels to inventions and company identification marks.
"The primary objective of copyright is not to reward the labor of authors, but ‘[t]o promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.' To this end, copyright assures authors the right to their original expression, but encourages others to build freely upon the ideas and information conveyed by a work. This result is neither unfair nor unfortunate. It is the means by which copyright advances the progress of science and art."
Copyright is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works. A copyright prevents others from copying an author’s work, which could take the form of books, videos, music, art, graphic designs, software, architecture, boat hull designs, and other forms of expression.
Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. In other words, you have a form of copyright protection as soon as you write the words, record the music, save the design on a computer, or somehow “fix the work in a tangible medium.”
Registration is recommended for a number of reasons. Many choose to register their works because they wish to have the facts of their copyright on the public record and have a certificate of registration. Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney's fees in successful litigation. Finally, if registration occurs within 5 years of publication, it is considered prima facie evidence in a court of law.
Before 1989, the use of a copyright notice – consisting of the copyright symbol (©, the letter C inside a circle), the abbreviation "Copr.", or the word "Copyright", followed by the year of the first publication of the work and the name of the copyright holder – was part of U. S. statutory requirements. Several years may be noted if the work has gone through substantial revisions. The proper copyright notice for sound recordings of musical or other audio works is a sound recording copyright symbol (℗, the letter P inside a circle), which indicates a sound recording copyright, with the letter P indicating a "phonorecord". Similarly, the phrase All rights reserved was once required to assert copyright.
In 1989 the United States enacted the Berne Convention Implementation Act, amending the 1976 Copyright Act to conform to most of the provisions of the Berne Convention. As a result, the use of copyright notices has become optional to claim copyright, because the Berne Convention makes copyright automatic. However, the lack of notice of copyright using these marks may have consequences in terms of reduced damages in an infringement lawsuit – using notices of this form may reduce the likelihood of a defense of "innocent infringement" being successful.
An example of a proper copyright notice: © 2014 Southeast IP Group, LLC