A couple of years ago I wrote a newsletter article in which I discussed a lawsuit I was bringing to protect and enforce the artistic rights I had in an image I had created. I promised to keep a journal and write, often, about the progress of that litigation. And, then a lawyer told me that I should not do that.
That matter has now ended. And, I still cannot write about it. All I can say is that, pursuant to an agreement with the other side, a Federal Judge entered a judgment on my behalf; the terms and amount of the settlement are “sealed” and cannot be disclosed by either party.
It was a long journey to that judgment. Two important things shaped my path.
First, I had formally registered my image. Yes, we own the creative rights to our work whether registered or not. But, enforcement of a non-registered work is far more difficult. And, many lawyers will not take cases involving unregistered work. Register. I did my last batch of registrations online. It took about 10 minutes. And, there are plenty of tutorials and instructions to guide you through the process.
And, second, I had good lawyers — specialists in intellectual property law — leading the way. I learned that copyright law is somewhat complex — something that requires some specialization. I was lucky. One of my photographer friends, Jody Goldstein, is an attorney in a firm that specializes in intellectual property law. Were I to go down this path again, I would certainly start with a specialist.
Intellectual property rights can be rooted in all kinds of work — including back drop art. So, I was not surprised to read that Denny Manufacturing Company had brought a lawsuit for copyright and trademark infringement against Backdrop Outlet; in the lawsuit, Denny alleged that the defendants had copied some of Denny’s artistic backdrops and that Back Drop Outlet was using a trademark, Fautex, that was confusingly similar to Denny’s FlexTex mark.
Like many intellectual property cases this, too, was settled. The defendants, while denying any wrongdoing, agreed to an injunction that stopped them from selling the backdrops in question and the prohibited the use of the trademark at issue. Some money was also paid to Denny Mfg.
The key, in my eyes, is that Denny Mfg. had registered copyrights protecting the art on the backdrops.
Register. It makes cents.
OK, that’s a terrible pun. And, were there someone sitting over my shoulder editing me, that line would probably be gone.
Bottom Line: Register your work. You may never have to enforce your rights. I wish that for you. But, if you do, the registration will be critical to your being able to get a law firm to represent you and to your ability to win.
(Copyright: PrairieFire Productions/Stephen J. Herzberg — 2010)