MLMIA Legal Mentoring Bulletin Twelve

About Copyrights


Many people assume that everything posted on the Internet is public domain, probably because our law used to protect published works only if they displayed the proper copyright notice upon publication. The law, however, has changed: neither publication nor a notice of any kind is required to protect works today. Simply putting the pen to the paper or in the electronic medium, putting the fingers to the keyboard creates a copyrighted work. Once expression is committed to a tangible medium (and computer media is considered tangible), copyright protection is automatic. So, postings of all kinds are protected the same as published printed works.

When I read the above, I needed to check it out before putting it in this bulletin. The paragraph below is from a highly regarded Intellectual Property Attorney, Len Rubin, of Querrey & Harrow, Ltd., 312-540-7676, [email protected]:

Yes, it's true.  Every creative, original work that is reduced to some tangible means of expression, whether on paper, on a computer's hard drive, on film or in any other medium, is protected by copyright the moment it has been so reduced, without the need for a copyright or any other form of notice.  Ideas are not protectable until they have been reduced to tangible expression, so blurting out an original idea in a crowded elevator means anyone in the crowd may copy it without liability, but once put in tangible form, copyright protection exists.  Of course, the work must otherwise qualify for copyright protection -- that is, it must be original, creative (as opposed to instructions, calendars, etc.), non-factual (facts are not protectable), and more than just a very few words or a title.

The above is provided as general information and, although written by MLMIA Board Member and Direct Selling Specialist Attorney Gerald Nehra, is NOT provided as the rendering of legal advice. Readers are urged to seek the counsel of attorneys or firms with special knowledge of direct selling laws. The four firms that devote their practice exclusively to counseling corporations about direct selling legal issues are, in alphabetical order: Babener & Associates, Jeffrey A. Babener, 503-226-6600, [email protected]; Grimes & Reese, PLLC, Kevin D. Grimes and Spencer Reese, 208-522-2600, [email protected]; Nehra & Waak, Attorneys at Law, Gerald Nehra and Richard Waak, 231-755-3800, [email protected]; and D. Jack Smith Law Firm, D. Jack Smith, 901-292-5225, [email protected].