The Basics of Copyright Law: Just Enough Copyright for People Who Are Not Attorneys or Intellectual Property Experts

This piece, originally written for lawyers, is accessible to anyone who wants to learn how copyright law works.

You have been helping a client set up her consulting business for failing bookstores (Speak Volumes Recovery Group), and she mentions that she has developed a PowerPoint presentation and hand-outs for use in their seminars. “Do you think we should trademark or copyright these materials?” she asks. “We’re really jazzed about the slides; we made them much more exciting by using a lot of photos we found on the internet. Also, the manuals we give our customers include some great ideas we’ve developed about bookstore inventory control — the copyright will keep our competitors from using our ideas if we register the manual, right?”

“Well,” you respond, “ummm… ahh…. Let me think about that.” (Maybe you should have taken that intellectual property course in law school after all!)

No mind; not too late. Copyright issues can arise in any practice, but you don’t need to become an expert in the most sophisticated and arcane aspects of the practice in order to answer some basic questions. This article seeks to provide you with just enough copyright law to understand the fundamentals and address the key issues.