Copycats Beware: Protecting Creative Works with Copyright and Other Intellectual Property Rights

Kathleen M. Wilt, Attorney at Valauskas Corder LLC
Creative Chicago Expo 2013

What are the different types of property?


  • Real Property: land and whatever is built on it so it is not moveable (eg. house, barn, fences)
  • Personal Property: Tangible Personal property (eg. car, computer, pet, lunch)
  • Intangible Personal Property: contractual rights, shares, intellectual property

Intangible personal property is intangible because it is produced in your mind and could only exist there.

Intellectual properties include trade secrets, copyright, Right of Publicity, trademark and patent. 

Trade Secrets

A trade secret is any "information" that has value (actual or potential), because it is not generally known, and is the subject of reasonable efforts to maintain its secrecy. Trade secrets are established automatically upon having the thought. No application has to be filed, no registration need be obtained, no certificate issued to establish ownership. A reasonable effort to protect a trade secret would be a contract that ensures all parties involve have an obligation to protect trade secrets.


What is protected by US copyright law? The legal definition: "original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression." Original means not copied. hat doesn't matter: if it is new compared to the other works, beauty and good taste and amount of time resources devoted to work, so the amount of time & money you put into the development of work are irrelevant. It can have an infinite number of identical works, each is considered original and is protected by copyright. Works of authorship include literary works (books and software), musical works, lyrics, motion pictures, audiovisual works, choreography, paintings, drawings, pictures, sculptures, and ideas. Expression of an idea is protectable, but avoid characterizing content as "ideas" since there is rarely legal protection for them. 

Not copyrightable "works": 

Facts. Eg. Square has four sides, Declaration of Independence signed in 1776, phone book (compilation of facts).

Formulas. Eg. "E=mc^2" (Einstein's Formula), "F=mg" (Law of Gravity)

Procedures, processes, systems, methods of operation. These may be protectable under patent law.

In the definition of copyright, "fixed" means "sufficiently permanent or stable to permit it to be perceived ... for more than transitory duration" and "directly or with aid of a machine or device". Basically, the creator's "expression" needs to be placed on paper, film, canvas, or recorded or transcribed. The default owner is the creator. Rights in a copyright: copy, modify, distribute, publicly display, publicly perform. 

Copyright Infringement

"anyone who violates any of the exclusive rights of a copyright ... is an infringer of the copyright..." Single authorized copy is enough. Intent or state of mind of the infringer is unimportant, so even innocent infringement is actionable. All collaborators own equal copyrights, even if person one only contributes 99% of the work. 

Right of Publicity

The right each person has to control the commercial us of his or her persona. Person= anything associated with a person which a member of the public can identify the person (image, name, physical characteristics, symbol associated with the person). To use the rights of publicity in commercialization context, you must obtain necessary rights by issuing a release, a license, and assignment.


How to tell the world that a technology comes from you? With a trademark! Use a symbol. Virtually any word, name, design, device, or sensory agent (smell or sound) that identifies the source of a product or a service. Select a term that is distinctive, one that can only identify your business as the source of the goods or services.


Patentable subject matter includes any new and useful and non-obvious machine, article of manufacture, composition of matter, process, or improvement of each, and designs.

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Recordings produced by Audio Arts + Acoustics students, Columbia College Chicago, and EARS, the Engineering And Recording Society of Chicago, for the Chicago Creative Expo 2013.
Thank you AA+A students: Adam Chismark, Ryan Greenburg, Trevor Roberts, Eric Somogyi, and Ming Yu.
Thank you EARS pro-members: James Wood Autwarter, Blaise Barton, Daniel Christmas, Danny Christy, John Christy, Rob Gillis, Reid Hyams, Danny Leake, Fran Allen-Leake, Eric Roth and Stacey Simcik.
Edited & Assembled by Ryan Greenburg (AA+A / Columbia College Chicago).
Executive Producer Reid Hyams (X-Art Entertainment) for EARS, AA+A / Columbia College Chicago & the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.

Thirst Designs.

Published by CAR_Andi on Tue, 03/19/2013 - 10:00am
Updated on Mon, 04/29/2013 - 9:10am
Copycats Beware: Protecting Creative Works with Copyright and Other Intellectual Property Rights | Chicago Artists Resource


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