Every artist must protect their original works, including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic works, through copyright. Only the author or those deriving their rights through the author can rightfully claim copyright. An author is the creator of a work that "owes its origin to the author," i.e., that the work is independently created, rather than copied from other works.
Works Made For Hire
When a work is created by an employee, within the scope of his or her employment, or when it is expressly agreed in writing, the copyright in the work may rest with the employer or the person who commissions the work.
Registration of copyright is obtained by submitting to the U.S. Copyright Notice an application with the fee and deposit copies of the work. Registration is not required for copyrright rights, but is necessary to assert a copyright owner's rights in court.
The artist's best friend is statutory copyright damages; but lost profits can be very helpful. An infringer of copyright is liable for either the copyright owner's actual damages and any additional profits of the infringer, as provided by subsection or statutory damages.
Actual Damages and Profits. The copyright owner is entitled to recover the actual damages suffered by him or her as a result of the infringement, and any profits of the infringer that are attributable to the infringement and are not taken into account in computing the actual damages. In establishing the infringer's profits, the copyright owner is required to present proof only of the infringer's gross revenue, and the infringer is required to prove his or her deductible expenses and the elements of profit attributable to factors other than the copyrighted work.
Statutory Damages. The copyright owner may elect, at any time before final judgment is rendered, to recover, instead of actual damages and profits, an award of statutory damages for all infringements involved in the action, with respect to any one work, for which any one infringer is liable individually, or for which any two or more infringers are liable jointly and severally, in a sum of not less than $750 or more than $30,000 as the court considers just.
Willfullness. In a case where the copyright owner sustains the burden of proving, and the court finds, that infringement was committed willfully, the court in its discretion may increase the award of statutory damages to a sum of not more than $150,000. In a case where the infringer sustains the burden of proving, and the court finds, that such infringer was not aware and had no reason to believe that his or her acts constituted an infringement of copyright, the court in its discretion may reduce the award of statutory damages to a sum of not less than $200.
Proper copyright notice consists of a copyright symbol, the date of first publication, and the name of the copyright owner. Copyright notice is not mandatory on works first published after March 1, 1989; but, the presence of copyright notice precludes an unlicensed user claiming innocent infringement.