In case you missed it, the last time I blogged, I did a Q&A with Greg Ourada, an intellectual property attorney with Hill, Kertscher & Wharton, LLP in Atlanta, GA. He answered questions about copyright, trademark, registered trademarks, and several other related topics. You can view that post here.
A few commenters had follow-up questions and I have the answers.
Before we begin, though, a disclaimer: The responses below are general in nature and should not be considered legal advice. Due to the highly fact-specific nature of copyright and trademark issues, you should contact an attorney if you require specific legal advice regarding a particular matter.
Now, your follow-up questions!
Justine: When registering a copyright or trademark, you have to provide an address. Is a PO Box sufficient (so as to keep the address of the owner of the copyright private), or do you need to provide a physical address?
Greg: Yes, a P.O. Box is fine. I usually advise clients to use their business/office address if one is available, since the information you provide in the copyright/trademark application becomes public knowledge, i.e. you cannot keep it confidential.
Justine: From an asset protection perspective (i.e., estate planning), some authors have been told to copyright their books in their company’s name (whether corp or LLC) in order to pass the rights on and/or keep publishing someone’s books even after they’re dead. Agree? Disagree? Varies by state?
Greg: First of all, the duration of copyright for works created on or after January 1, 1978 is for the life of the author plus 70 years, where the author is known, or if the author is anonymous, for 95 years from first publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter. If there are joint authors, then it would last for 70 years after the last surviving author’s death. Therefore, copyright duration does not matter on whether a company owns the copyright. Assigning the ownership of copyright to a company may have estate planning advantages. However, I am not an estate planning attorney so I cannot answer this question definitively.
Justine: There’s still some confusion about copyrighting book titles, song titles, etc. If I give my book a title that is also a song title, can that be construed as a copyright violation? Regarding book titles specifically (because as writers, I think that’s what we’re mostly concerned about), is a copyright violation something we need to worry about.
Greg: Song titles cannot be protected under copyright, so by itself, using one as a book title should not be actionable.
Greg Ourada is a registered patent attorney whose practice focuses on both business transactions and intellectual property for clients ranging from startups to large, multi-national enterprises. Mr. Ourada’s trademark practice involves advising clients on trademark clearance, brand strategy, registration, and enforcement, and managing the firm’s sizable client portfolio of both national and international trademarks. As a patent attorney, Mr. Ourada prosecutes patent applications, advises clients on a wide range of patent-related matters including prior art searching, freedom-to-operate, and enforcement, and assists the firm’s litigation practice team with patent litigation matters. Mr. Ourada’s business transactions practice involves assisting clients with a full range of business issues such as contract negotiation, equity and debt financing, mergers and acquisitions, and technology licensing.