Trademarking is a process that businesses do to “brand” something. This is usually reserved for products and usually, has more to do with a company name than a product or media project. If you plan to create video content that you want to “patent” as a unique product of your brand, then you may want to trademark it. Trademarking protects you from having others steal your product and offers you a legal recourse if someone were to attempt this.
Remember though that trademarking is the act of putting your brand name on the video, and you are not trademarking the video itself.
Legal Definition of a Trademark
The United States Patent and Trademarks Office defines a trademark as:
“any word, slogan, symbol, design, or combination of these assets that define your brand or identifies the source of your goods and services, or distinguishes them from the goods or services of another party.”
By this definition, a video that you put online would not qualify for a trademark. However, if you decide to get a patent for your video and “package” it into a tangible form such as a DVD or downloadable file, you could secure a trademark to associate it with your brand.
For more information about trademarks, go to the US Office of Trademarks.
Copyright, Not Trademarks
When it comes to any literary work in text, video, film, audio, or any other form, the written form will be in the form of copyright. Copyright means that you own and claim authorship of a literary work. This includes any written work including movie or video scripts, books and novels, eBooks, and any other written intellectual work.
If you create a hard copy of this work such as a DVD or sound recording or encompass it in any form, you may also want to secure a patent, which gives you sole ownership of the media product. To find out more about the process of copyright and how to secure documentation of your proof of copyright, go to the U.S. Copyright Office website.
The video below will also help with learning between the differences of trademarks, patents, and copyrights.
Benefits of Federal Registration
Remember that once you write, compose, or create a video or any other intellectual work, you legally own the piece. With the internet offering a digital footprint of when you uploaded the work under your name and agreed to YouTube’s terms, verifies that you are claiming copyright ownership.
This alone gives you good documentation that you did create and are claiming copyright ownership for the video that you did online. However, if you ever take down the video, this might come into question again in the future if someone were to challenge it or claim that they owned or created the video.
This can get more complicated also if you contract or outsource out video production work to others and then claim the copyright legally within YouTube or other platforms because the artist sold you the rights.
It is advisable that you never delete videos that you upload to YouTube so that you always have legal proof that you uploaded the video originally and that you are claiming ownership. Many times the courts will rule for the person who first uploaded the video as the owner, given that the other facts show you created the work.
In the final nutshell, if you want absolute legal recourse and proof that the work is yours, you should get it legally registered with the Federal Copyright Office. You will have to pay a filing fee of around $105 per documented work, but this varies according to the type of work you are submitting.
The advantage of filing a work with the Federal Copyright Office is that you will have legal proof if you have to sue in Federal court. If you do not have it registered, your case may be harder to prove.
Best Practices for Video Producers
If you are creating advertising videos, interviews about your brand, or other business promotional videos, you may not need to officially register it. Common sense comes into play here. No one will want to use your video to try to create income from your marketing video.
However, if you create an original film with actors that is likely to become viral or potentially create a large revenue stream for you, it may be to your advantage to seek a legal copyright. This is because, the more popular a video gets, the more likely it is that someone may try to steal it or claim it for their own.
Think of copyright as a type of insurance policy against theft of your videos. But you may not want to spend the money for every video you create as this can become costly.
Common Law Copyright: Automatic Protection
The common law rule now is that you own the work as soon as you create it. But it is advisable to keep a record of when you published each work so that you could present this information in court if you ever needed to. Other documentation such as MS Word documents on your computer that you saved with the time and date stamp can prove effective in illustrating your case that you wrote the work on that date. If the date precedes any date that others claimed they wrote it, you will prove that you are the original author of the work in question.
The video below gives some further insight into whether you should file a copyright registration for your video. It explains the fact that you automatically own the work once you create the work “in a tangible form.” If you create the work, you claim ownership of the work, and you are legally allowed to place a copyright notice on your work once you have created the work.
Federal registration allows you to sue in federal court and also allows you to collect from a copyright infringement lawsuit, including all attorney fees that are involved in such a case, should you have to take it to court to protect your work.
Conclusions on Copyright
In the final analysis, you should always consider whether you think the video itself will make you lots of money through the sales of the media or if it is merely a tool to promote your business. The level of popularity may also be a factor. If you do decide to copyright your videos, you will need to register them before the first publication so that you will create an official record of your registration before you release it.
For registration information on video, go to https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ45.pdf
Some platforms such as Amazon Kindle, Audible.com, and iTunes.com, offer copyright agreements within their platforms that you sign digitally when submitting work. Much like YouTube’s agreement when you sign up, you are stating that you own the copyrighted work and that you are securing the copyright when you do so.
Keep Good Records
Whether you go with the common law copyright protection or not, it’s important to protect your rights. One way to do that is also to keep careful records of everything you produce either on your website or a legal pad or computer file so that you can offer proof of ownership if you are ever challenged.
Copyright law can get confusing, especially when you also offer ad space or have other special arrangements with others that can influence the status of your work.
Start with a great video at Animated Video and talk to us about your concerns regarding copyright and trademark. We are not lawyers, but we have experience with online video and can help you to make the best decision regarding your online videos and how to protect them.
We look forward to working with you!™ ©