Basics of Copyright Registration


With the internet, new businesses have the potential to reach out to their customers, associates and vendors like never before. Attention is cheaper than before. So most new businesses end up using pictures they don’t own in blog posts and share videos that contain clips from movies they didn’t make. Simultaneously, your own website design is more likely than before to ‘inspire’ the design of another website. If you’re not sure how this relates to copyright law, you definitely need to read on and find out.

What is a Copyright?
Copyright is a set of legal rights granted to creators of original literary (books, scripts and software) and audio-visual (movies, music and photographs) work. These rights are conferred upon the author the moment the work is created. Therefore, you can have © followed by your name and ‘All rights reserved’ after every article you write or picture you post. That said, it’s not necessary for the owner of a copyright to be the author of the work because such rights are transferrable, both temporarily and permanently.

Why Copyright Registration?
If it’s not valuable (a blog post, let’s say), there’s no need to register a copyright. But most businesses have valuable artistic they would rather copyright. The main reason for this is that if you haven’t registered the copyright, you can’t file a case against any infringement. Once registered, which is easy to do by the way, your legal rights are easy to establish. For example, many online sellers copyright pictures they shoot of their catalogue; book publishers, musicians and other creative professionals have always done so.

Here are three instances which will establish the need for copyright registration:

Software Code: If you’ve built an application, you probably think it’s safe from other coders. No one can copy it because you own the copyright to it. But it does happen. And then you have a problem, because there’s no way to stop the infringement unless you have registered the copyright, which you’ll have to then do in a hurry at And once you do, you’ll have court expenses. Instead of exposing yourself to this possibility, you could simply copyright the code.

Website Design: If you’ve outsourced the design work to a friend early on in your venture, you probably would have done so without an agreement in place. Now let’s say that a year later, the same designer uses the design for another client, what can you do? After all, the copyright of the work belongs to the designer in this case, not you. So when someone does creative work for your business, it’s best to have them surrender all rights to their work through an agreement or a licensing agreement.

Marketing Material: In low-budget marketing campaigns, there is frequent use of celebrity pictures, popular music and movies and pictures from Shutterstock or Getty. Often, there’s even the company’s logo on this copyrighted material. Of course, you can’t use any of it legally. It’s complete infringement of copyright. There is, however, something knows as the ‘fair use’ doctrine. So if your website features book, music or movie reviews, you may be able to include some of the work without infringing the copyright. Parody is also considered fair-use, as is the use of copyrighted work in academic works.

Vakilsearch's resident expert on starting up, compliance and accounting, he holds a Masters in Accounting and an LLB.