Costello Law Corporation
We Can Help You, Call Us Today
This Attorney is Lead Counsel Rated. Click here for more Information.

Copyrights sometimes disappear when challenged

Laws governing copyright are complex and evolving fast. If someone accuses you of committing copyright infringement, they might be entirely wrong and have no case against you. But then, they might be right. Inadvertently violating copyrights is extremely common, especially in the digital era.

Losing a copyright battle can be expensive and damaging to your reputation and future. Talk to an experienced intellectual property attorney if you think you’re headed for a copyright fight.

It might not be original enough for copyright

Fundamental to the idea of copyright is that the copyrighted work must be original in some way. Early last year, a songwriter lost a suit against Taylor Swift for using phrases like “shake it off,” “players gonna play” and “haters gonna hate.” The judge found the “banal” phrases “too brief, unoriginal and uncreative” for protection and dismissed the challenge.

More classic examples of works that are simply too unoriginal to be copyrightable are forms, phone books and spreadsheets.

It may have passed into public domain

Copyrights don’t last forever, but instead lapse and enter the “public domain,” typically after many decades. Your dispute is probably about a more recent work. Still, works can go into the public domain sooner, sometimes without the creator realizing it.

The song “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” is public domain because it’s extremely old, but the 1968 horror classic Night of the Living Dead supposedly has been in the public domain for many years because of laws in effect in 1968 and errors made behind the scenes. Errors in establishing secure copyrights from the start often make works hard or impossible to defend later on. Seek legal advice, especially if you create regularly and/or for a living.

The creator may have been thinking about it too long

There’s a time limit for action much shorter than lapsing into the public domain. A person must file suit for copyright infringement within three years of the time the “claim accrued.”

Different federal courts have interpreted what “accrued” means in different ways. Some rule the suit must come within three years of the time the infringement was, or reasonably should have been, discovered. Others rule the three years start with the infringing act itself, no matter if anyone noticed it. If they’ve been stewing over your infringement for a decade, they may have waited too long.

Note that, no matter which federal court is hearing the case, these rulings usually don’t apply to ongoing infringement, such as using the same theme song in every episode of a podcast.

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information

Contact Us Today

To protect your valuable idea, contact our lawyers at Costello Law Corporation to set up an initial consultation. We are ready to assist you in any intellectual property issue.

Get Started

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.


Privacy Policy

Map & Directions

Costello Law Corporation

Costello Law Corporation
2267 Lava Ridge Court
Suite 210
Roseville, CA 95661

Phone: 916-520-3360
Fax: 916-441-4254
Map & Directions

Email Us