Florida Intellectual Property Litigation Attorneys
Federal copyright law protects original works of authorship fixed in tangible media. While once primarily devoted to serving the interests of authors, artists and musicians, in today’s world, copyright disputes are often at the center of complex commercial disputes involving rights to software, digital media and other business-critical intellectual property assets.
Like trademarks, copyrighted works do not need to be registered in order to be protected. However, also like trademarks, registration affords copyright owners several benefits – including benefits that arise specifically in the context of litigation. At Searcy Denney, our litigation team represents individual creators and corporate entities in disputes involving both registered and unregistered copyrights throughout Florida.
Copyright Owners’ Exclusive Rights
Under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, copyright owners enjoy a suite of exclusive rights. These include the rights to:
- Reproduce copyrighted works
- Distribute copyrighted works
- Publicly perform and display copyrighted works
- Create derivative works based on copyrighted materials
Whenever a person or company interferes with a copyright owner’s exclusive rights (e.g., by making copies of a protected piece of artwork or proprietary software code), that person or company can face liability for copyright infringement.
In copyright infringement cases, two of the primary issues are (i) whether the alleged infringer had access to the protected work; and, (ii) if so, whether the allegedly infringing material represents a “copy” of the protected work. The latter question focuses on whether the allegedly infringing material is “substantially similar” to the work that is subject to copyright protection. If the works in question are not substantially similar, or if there is no evidence that the alleged infringer had access to the plaintiff’s copyrighted asset, then the plaintiff may not have a supportable claim for copyright infringement.
Constructive Notice and Statutory Damages – Benefits of Copyright Registration
As we mentioned above, in the context of infringement litigation, registration with the U.S. Copyright Office confers several key benefits. Two of these benefits are:
- Constructive Notice – Since registered copyrighted works are on file with the U.S. Copyright Office and the Library of Congress, registration provides “constructive notice” of the owner’s claim to exclusivity. This prevents infringers from claiming that they did not have access to the registered owner’s work (although access to the Internet or a company’s secure network will often preclude a “lack-of-access” defense as well).
- Statutory Damages – Without a federal registration certificate, copyright owners must prove their actual damages in litigation. This can be a challenging (and expensive) task. However, under the United States Copyright Act, registered copyright owners have the option to elect for “statutory damages.” In cases of willful infringement, statutory damages can reach $150,000.
In addition to actual or statutory damages, in infringement litigation copyright owners can also seek to recover the infringer’s profits along with their own court costs and attorneys’ fees. This applies to cases involving both registered and unregistered works.
Searcy Denney | Florida Intellectual Property Litigation Attorneys
If you would like to speak with an attorney about asserting a copyright infringement claim, or if you are facing allegations of copyright infringement, contact Searcy Denney for a complimentary consultation. To schedule an appointment with an attorney at our offices in Tallahassee or West Palm Beach, call (800) 780-8607 or submit our contact form now.