How can creative works be protected?
Creative works can be protected under copyrights. Creative works other than digital innovations like software, screen materials, websites and databases that can be copyrighted include:
- Literary works including manuals, books, etc.
- Scientific and technical papers
- Online writing, such as a blog or series of articles
- Musical works and sound recordings, including lyrics
- Movies and other audiovisual works
- Pictorial works (includes maps and architectural plans), graphics, sculpture
- Pantomimes and choreographic works (if they have been recorded)
Publication is not necessary for copyrighting a creative work, but your creative work must somehow be preserved in some form or be able to be reproduced to be copyrighted.
What type of creative works cannot be protected?
Creative works that are not fixed in some tangible form of expression cannot be copyrighted. These include:
- Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries, or devises, as distinguished from a description, explanation, or illustration.
- Titles, names, short phrases, and slogans. (you may be able to trademark or service mark these.)
- A speech or lecture that isn’t recorded or written out.
- Familiar symbols or designs, mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering or coloring
- Mere listings of ingredients or contents (but a recipe with instructions can be copyrighted)
- “common property” works that have no original authorship, for example, standard calendars, tape measures and rules, height/weight charts, lists or tables taken from public documents or other common sources.
- Works that are in the public domain, for which the copyright has expired.
Who owns a creative work that has been developed at Northwestern University?
As regards copyrights and other intellectual property rights (excluding patent rights), notwithstanding the general principles respecting individual ownership expressed in Northwestern University’s Copyright Policy, ownership of such intellectual property rights arising in certain categories of academic works, including creative works (i.e., works primarily related to the teaching or research missions of the university) listed below shall vest (as works for hire or the equivalent) in Northwestern University:
- Works supported by grants or contracts (internal, federal, state, industry etc,) shall be governed according to the terms and conditions of such grants or contracts (which generally assign ownership to Northwestern University) or, in the event such grants or contracts are silent as to intellectual property rights, such intellectual property will be owned by Northwestern University.
- Works supported by grants, extraordinary allowance or subventions (whether in money or money’s worth, and whether or not supported by outside sources under contract), when designated as such in advance by the university.
- Databases and similar collections of information which are obtained primarily on behalf of schools or departments rather than individuals, or which involve issues of privacy (as in the case of medical patients or identifiable human subjects) or require approval by the university’s Institutional Review Board.
- Computer programs, when the programs are primarily created to perform utilitarian tasks.
- Works by persons working as members of the Northwestern University community, when numerous individual original contributions are indistinctly merged, as a practical matter, into a new and distinct work fixed in a tangible medium of embodiment, and the individual creators have not entered into an agreement with respect to joint authorship.
Do I have to register my creative work with the U.S. copyright office in order to be protected?
Works are under copyright protection the moment they are created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. In general, registration is voluntary and relatively inexpensive. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work. Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney’s fees in successful litigation.
How do I use a copyright notice with my digital innovation?
In copyright law, a copyright notice is a notice of statutorily prescribed form that informs users of the underlying claim to copyright ownership in a published work. When a creative work is developed to be published, shared or licensed under the authority of the copyright owner, a notice of copyright may be placed on the work. The use of the notice is the responsibility of the copyright owner and does not require permission from, or registration with, the U.S. Copyright Office.
Use of the notice informs the public that a creative work is protected by copyright, identifies the copyright owner, and shows the year of first use. U.S. law no longer requires the use of a copyright notice, although placing it on a work does confer certain benefits to the copyright holder. The Copyright Office has issued regulations concerning the position of the notice and methods of affixation. Generally, the copyright notice should be placed in such a way that it gives reasonable notice of the claim of copyright. The notice should be permanently legible to an ordinary user of the work under normal conditions of use and should not be concealed from view upon reasonable examination.
For example, copyright notices for Northwestern University-owned creative works can be added as given below:
Copyright 2018. Northwestern University. All rights reserved.
Copyright 2015 – 2018. Northwestern University. All rights reserved.
How can I disseminate my creative work openly?
Creative Commons licenses can be used to disseminate creative works openly. If authors would like to disseminate a creative work but retain commercialization options for the future and restrict users rights to create derivatives, they would be advised to use a non-commercial version of the Creative Commons licenses like CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.
Can I commercialize or monetize my creative work?
Yes. If the creative work is owned by Northwestern University, INVO can assist with commercialization efforts. Even if you used a Creative Commons license to disseminate your creative work, as long as you used a non-commercial version of the creative commons license, commercial licenses can still be used to monetize the work.
Still have questions? Please contact INVO.