At The Alderman Law Office in Washington, D.C., we focus exclusively on intellectual property and related areas, providing services to clients in the United States and abroad. With more than 35 years of experience, firm principal Elliott Alderman has represented individuals and businesses dealing with a wide range of copyright and related legal issues. The firm is frequently consulted by other law firms regarding intellectual property matters and routinely accepts referrals or co-counsels on complex matters.
We handle both technology-based and creative properties, and work with both the pipeline and the content that moves through it. We believe that it is essential to understand how technology works, both for licensing purposes and to grasp how intellectual property is used.
We also have extensive copyright litigation experience and can call upon a network of experienced attorneys for assistance with larger, more complex cases. Finally, we are well-versed with rights clearance, transactional, advisory and policy matters, and have performed numerous intellectual property audits for both creators and users.
Our firm clients include:
- Visual Artists and Performers
- Software and Technology Companies
- Multimedia Companies
- Electronic Commerce Companies
- Internet and Content Companies
The failure to register copyrights is the very definition of being penny-wise and pound foolish. Many clients leave many law offices frustrated because despite the apparent validity of their claims, they just cannot afford to enforce their rights if they neglected to register their creative works. The irony of this situation is that a great number of these clients are either individual creators, or companies whose very livelihood depends upon their copyrights.
Although a copyright arises from the moment a work is created (fixed in a tangible medium), the failure to register it is an all but insurmountable obstacle for most owners seeking to protect their rights in the creation. The United States eliminated many of its formal requirements for copyright ownership when in 1989 it joined the preeminent international copyright treaty, the Berne Convention, but registration remains a requirement for a domestic infringement suit. Simply put, a copyright owner of a U.S. origin work — which includes most works under the Copyright Act’s broad definition — cannot sue to enforce its rights before applying for a registration/registering the work; and if the owner does not register promptly, other important rights are lost.
As with a trademark, there are significant evidentiary and other benefits to encourage prompt registration. Registrations made before or within five years of first publication establish the prima facie validity of the copyright and of all the facts stated in the registration. After this time period, the evidentiary weight is left up to the discretion of the trial judge.
Most importantly, for all but the wealthiest copyright owners, it is just not cost-effective to bring a suit on an unregistered work. Without the essential remedies of statutory damages and attorney’s fees — which require the registration of unpublished works before publication, and published works within three months of first publication — few owners can afford to pursue even clear-cut violations.
The Act permits owners to be awarded up to $150,000.00 per infringed work, without even demonstrating the amount of their actual damages. Besides being difficult and expensive to quantify damages, it is often the case that even in egregious cases actual damages are difficult to prove, or they are, in fact, very limited. Being able to establish liability without having to make this difficult quantification is a tremendous advantage in enforcing an owner’s rights.
Likewise, attorney’s fees are a significant litigation expense, and the ability to recover these costs is a powerful bargaining tool against a recalcitrant infringer. With these expenses often rising into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, there is also little incentive to bring a suit without the opportunity to recoup these costs.