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Amazon Seller’s Guide to Copyrights

Wed Nov 2, 2022 Selling on Amazon

As an Amazon seller, you should know about the four branches of intellectual property. They are:

  • Trademarks: includes brand names, logos, slogans
  • Copyrights:  includes artistic work such as movies, books, photos, architecture
  • Patents: includes inventions
  • Trade Secrets: includes secrets within an organization or company (ex., formula for Coca-Cola)

In this blog, our Amazon IP lawyer will discuss copyrights in more detail. 

What Is a Copyright?

A copyright protects an original work of authorship that has been fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright protects only the expression of an idea, not the idea itself. Generally, a copyright expires 70 years after the author’s death.

What Can a Copyright Protect?

  • Pictorial, Graphic, and Sculptural Works: Works included are sketches, drawings, cartoons, paintings, photographs (product photographs/product packaging), slides, greeting cards, maps, charts, globes, sculptures, jewelry, glassware, models, tapestries, fabric designs, and wallpapers.
  • Literary Works: This can include novels, nonfiction works, poems, articles, essays, directories, advertising, catalogs, speeches, ebooks, blog articles, and computer programs.
  • Sound Recordings: This includes recorded music, voice, and sound effects. Thunder, animal noises, and other sounds of nature may be copyrighted by the persons who record them. 

Requirements for Copyright Protection

Copyright-eligible subject matter is entitled to copyright protection if it is “original” and fixed in a “tangible medium of expression.”

  • Originality: An original work is one that is independently created by the author and possesses “some minimal degree of creativity.” According to our Amazon IP lawyer, the bar is very low for a work to be considered original. 
  • Fixation: A work is fixed in a tangible medium of expression when it is fixed in a medium from which it can be communicated either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. For example, an e-book is considered fixed and can be registered. However, broadcast radio waves of a song cannot be registered. The song would need to be saved to a device, such as a tape to be registered. 

Works Made for Hire

When a work is created by an employee within the scope of his or her employment, the employer is presumed to be the author and, thus, the copyright owner. Independent contractors are different, and it is best to have a Works Made For Hire Agreement executed when you are working with independent contractors. Your Amazon IP lawyer can help with this. 

Benefits of Copyrights for Amazon Sellers

There are many benefits to having a copyright. 

  • Federal Lawsuits: A copyright must be registered with the US Copyright Office in order to file a lawsuit in federal court. 
  • Validity: A registered copyright is evidence that your copyright is valid (important when filing a lawsuit) and that you own it. 
  • Statutory Damages/Attorney Fees: To be eligible for an award of statutory damages and attorney fees in a copyright infringement case, the copyrighted work must be registered.
  • Public Record and Notice: It gives notice to the public that you have a copyright and you are the copyright owner. This is also helpful when you’re looking to license your work. and Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)

If one of your listings is removed due to a rights owner complaint of copyright infringement, and you believe that the content referenced in the complaint is not infringing, you can submit a counter-notice. Once Amazon receives the valid counter-notice, their copyright agent will forward the information to the party who filed the complaint (“claimant”). If the claimant does not file a lawsuit with respect to the content within 10 days, Amazon will reinstate the content.

The problem here is that an unscrupulous person may have no problem filing a false counter-notice, forcing the party that has been infringed upon to file a lawsuit or allow the infringement to take place.  

Speak With An Amazon IP Lawyer at ESQgo

If you have concerns regarding your copyright or need to register a copyright, contact our firm to speak with an Amazon IP lawyer. You can call us at 888-600-1925 or via our contact page.