Whether they realize it or not, all companies face copyright issues every day. Most recognize the importance of copyrights in creative industries such as publishing, entertainment, and gaming. But copyright can also protect written, visual, electronic, and other material as diverse as computer programs, websites, company manuals, catalogues, advertising, and product packaging. And virtually every company is both a creator of copyrightable works and a user of others’ copyrighted works. Adding to the complexity, freelance artists, computer programmers, and other independent contractors may continue own the copyrights in the works they create — even if a company pays them to create those works and they deliver hard copies of those works to the company — unless a written copyright assignment has been executed. As a result, companies must be vigilant in recognizing and protecting the copyrightable material that they create and acquire, but also in ensuring that they are not infringing others' copyrighted works.
At Hunton & Williams LLP, we have an experienced team of lawyers and paralegals who focus on copyright issues. We assist clients in identifying and protecting their own copyright rights and in avoiding or, if necessary, defending against copyright claims by others. We apply our copyright experience across a broad range of industries, including gaming, book publishing, music, education, banking, insurance, computer programs, web development, furniture design, architecture, consumer products and labeling, and marketing and advertising. Our subject matter and industry experience allow us to give practical copyright solutions in a cost-effective manner.
Clients — from start-ups to the Fortune 100 — have enlisted us to guide them in significant copyright matters, including copyright audits; registration of a variety of copyrighted works; the copyright components of employee, independent contractor, and work made for hire agreements; licenses, assignments, and other copyright transactions; responding to demands and inquiries from copyright owners and associations, including the Business Software Alliance and the music performing rights societies (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC); and offensive and defensive copyright infringement litigation in the federal courts.
Counseling and Audits
Through informal counseling and more systematic audits, we help our clients to recognize and protect the copyrighted works that they develop and use, and to avoid claims that they are infringing the copyrighted works of others. We provide practical advice on issues such as the requirements of originality and fixation, copyright notice, ownership, derivative works, the duration of copyright rights, fair use, the consequences (and risks) of joint ownership of copyrights, and potential copyright protection across borders and internationally.
Although copyright registration may appear to be a simple matter, mistakes in the registration process can have a severe impact on copyright rights and enforceability. Our copyright lawyers and paralegals assist clients in registering and depositing a wide range of copyrightable works using the Copyright Office’s various forms and electronic filing procedures. We also assist with the registration of group works, serial works, and works made for hire, as well as the recordation of copyright assignments and security interests.
Employee and Independent Contractor Agreements
We help clients with the nuances of copyright ownership in various contexts. These include works created by employees; by ad agencies, photographers, programmers, and other independent contractors; by licensees; and with joint venturers and other business partners. We structure, draft, and negotiate agreements to ensure that our clients have the ownership and use rights that they need.
Licenses and Assignments
We structure, draft, and negotiate licenses and assignments for copyrighted material, as well as the copyright provisions of broader license and assignment agreements. We work with our colleagues in various practice areas at Hunton & Williams — such as mergers and acquisitions and energy and environmental — on the copyright aspects of various transactions. And we work across a range of industries, including gaming, computer programming, healthcare, consumer products, energy, and education.
Inquiries and Demands from Copyright Owners and Associations
From time to time, our clients — in industries such as advertising, manufacturing, and technology — receive inquiries and demand letters from the purported owners of copyrighted software, music, website materials, electronic publications, and other works, and from organizations such as BSA, ASCAP, or BMI, among others. We assist our clients in investigating and responding to such demands, asserting fair use defenses and other defenses as appropriate, minimizing damages claims, and negotiating rights to use.
Disputes and Litigation
In federal courts throughout the country, we have assisted clients in enforcing their copyrights in a broad range of works and industries. We have obtained preliminary and permanent injunctions to protect copyrighted designs in consumer products and packaging. We have won jury trials on copyright infringement claims in the electronic gaming industry. Further, we have obtained record-setting judgments on copyright infringement claims (and related claims) in consumer promotional materials. We position our clients to succeed in a range of copyright cases by knowing the courts, the law, and the industry; by engaging skilled subject matter and damages experts; and by using our litigation professionals and technology to organize discovery and improve courtroom presentations.