Who Exactly is Eligible for Copyright Protection?


Generally, any work that involves intellectual property is eligible for copyright protection. That means that the product, created by a specific person or legal entity (i.e., a company), is original (nobody has done it before) and meets fixation.

Automatic Protection Exists but Doesn’t Automatically Get Enforced

Fortunately, as every San Francisco intellectual property attorney can advise, the federal law automatically creates copyright protection once someone creates something. Because this is a standing law, the protection is automatic and free. Unfortunately, enforcing the protection has been left to the owner through the legal system, which is not free and can be very costly to prove and assert. As a result, one of the first steps to take to protect anything with copyright is to proactively register it with the U.S. Copyright office. This is where the above criteria of originality and fixation come into play.


An original work is one that nobody has previously created, which can be easily searched and confirmed by an SF lawyer. This is also verified by the U.S. Copyright office through a search of their registered records when copyright is registered with the government. Once a creation is on file with the Office as original, the owner has an added validation which becomes very powerful if enforcement is needed. That said, it’s not required. If the owner has asserted copyright on the work, the first date it is created, usually with a copyright symbol and year on the work, then the protection is established. Again, however, the work must be novel and a first. It can’t be a version or duplicate of someone else’s work from a prior date. That said, this criterion is probably the easiest to meet.


The fixation of work means that it has been produced in a format that is tangible. A copyright attorney in San Francisco can confirm if a medium qualifies. However, the most important thing to remember is that simply having the work in one’s head is not enough. A book needs to be printed or recorded, a song needs to be the same, artwork needs to be digitized or painted, a software program needs to be written into a data file, and so on. Once put into a given medium, copyright protection applies, and the work is fixed when it can be interpreted by others or reproduced.

Creating a Recognized Record

To meet the above, an owner can also utilize government courier services to confirm ownership, originality, and date of creation. For years, many authors recorded their work in a given medium, packaged it, and then mailed the copy to themselves via the U.S. mail. This did two things: it put the work in the hands of a recognized government agency, and it documented the date on which that work first existed with an official third party. It also has become a very powerful tool of evidence showing ownership of copyright before any other players or substitutes come along.

Working with Copyright the Smart Way

Working with a San Francisco business attorney when trying to manage a large collection of copyrighted works is a smart idea. There are a lot of hoops and barrels to take care of with each product, and a San Francisco copyright protection attorney has the tools to keep the production process straight as each new work comes online. This is critical as the Internet has made it a lot easier to steal works and repurpose them illegally and without the owner’s permission. Attorney James M. Braden can help. Having handled multiple copyright cases as a San Francisco copyright protection attorney, Mr. Braden can easily advise on industry-specific loopholes and minefields to watch out for. And that kind of San Francisco business copyright protection can save thousands of dollars in headaches later by avoiding unnecessary enforcement actions.  To find out more, call the Law Office of James M. Braden today!