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What Grocers Need To Know About Copyright


By Jim Dudlicek / NGA director of communications and external affairs

Progressive grocery retailers actively engage their communities in many ways, including advertising, social media, and their weekly circular, whether it’s print or digital. 

As creators and users of these materials, grocers have a responsibility to consider copyright when making or using creative expressions, such as photographs and artwork.  

NGA hosted a recent webinar that explained the basics of copyright, owners’ rights and how certain services provided by the Copyright Office can help someone enforce those rights. The discussion was led by Jessica Chinnadurai, an attorney advisor in the Office of Public Information and Education at the U.S. Copyright Office. 

Here are some key takeaways from the discussion:

What is a copyright? Copyright protects original works of creative authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression. Protected works include literary works, music and lyrics, dramatic works, choreography, pictures, graphics, sculptures, motion pictures, sound recordings and architectural works. “Fixed” means written down or recorded in some manner and for a long enough period of time that it can be perceived, reproduced or communicated. Copyright protection begins automatically when the work is fixed.

Who is a copyright owner? To be an owner, you must be the author of a work – either the work’s creator or, for a work made for hire, the employer of someone who created the work as part of their regular duties, or someone who commissioned a work by agreement. Generally, copyrights last for the life of the author plus 70 years or, for works made for hire, 95 years from first publication or 120 years from date of creation, whichever expires first.

What rights do copyright owners have? Owners of copyrighted works may reproduce their work, prepare “derivative works” based on the work, and publicly display or perform their work. 

What if you’re not the copyright owner? To use copyrighted work, you may obtain a license from the owner, or follow the Copyright Act’s exceptions or limitations. For example, you can use anything in the public domain, which includes work for which copyright has expired and work that’s “insufficiently creative.” 

Fair use. Copyright law allows case-by-case evaluation based on use for nonprofit educational purposes, the nature of the work, the amount of the work used vs. the whole, and the impact of the use on the potential market value for the owner. 

Copyright registration. Protection is automatic the moment an original work of authorship is fixed. Registration with the U.S. Copyright Office is not required but recommended since it’s necessary in the event you pursue litigation to enforce a copyright.

The Copyright Claims Board provides judicial resolution of all disputes, including infringement and misrepresentation as well as damages; monetary awards cannot exceed $30,000.

For more information, whether you’re a plaintiff or defendant in a dispute, visit ccb.gov or copyright.gov, or contact [email protected].

To hear all the exclusive insights presented in this webinar, view the recording at attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/7253569899273005740.

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