Copyright Law Attorneys in Dallas, TX

A copyright is a form of intellectual property law that provides the creator, or the author, of an original work the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, and perform the work, and to create derivative works from the original work. A copyright may protect artistic, musical, literary, dramatic, architectural, or other creative works. Copyright does not protect ideas, facts, systems, or methods of operation.

Copyright law in the United States is governed by the Copyright Act of 1976. The United States Constitution fosters the development of creative work, as it provides for “promot[ing] the Progress of Science and Useful Arts by securing for limited times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.” Owners of copyrighted materials receive certain exclusive rights, such as the right to reproduce the copyrighted work, the right to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work, and the right to publicly perform or display the work.

Copyright law protects “original works of authorship,” and the Copyright Act specifically extends protection to literary, musical, dramatic, pantomime, choreographic, pictorial, graphic, sculptural, audiovisual, sound recording, and architectural works. If you have created any of these works, you already hold a common law copyright simply by merit of their creation and fixation in a tangible medium of expression.

The Copyright Act requires “fixation” of the work for federal copyright registration. The fixation requirement requires that your work be reduced to a tangible medium of expression. For example, if you have written a book on paper, you have satisfied the fixation requirement because your book is capable of being read by another person and it is capable of being reproduced. Fixation in this instance was the act of writing the book on paper, and the tangible medium is the paper.

Any author or creator of an original work may register their copyright with the United States Copyright Office. Copyright registration provides protection for the work for a certain period of time. If your copyrighted work was created after January 1, 1978, your copyright protection will last for the term of your life plus seventy years. If the copyrighted work is a work made for hire, a pseudonymous work, or an anonymous work, the copyright protection will last 95 years from the date of first publication or 120 years from the year of its creation, whichever ends first.

The Dallas copyright attorneys at Ritter Spencer Cheng PLLC law firm cover many related practice areas, including trademarks and trade secret litigation in Dallas, Texas. We assist clients in securing trademark registration and navigating the complexities of international IP, ensuring comprehensive legal counsel in these critical areas of copyright law.

When you create an eligible work and fix that work in a tangible medium of expression, you own a common law copyright. However, common law copyright protection does not provide the several benefits that federal copyright registration provides.

Though copyright registration is voluntary, it is highly recommended. Federal copyright registration provides several benefits. The Copyright Office will provide a Certificate of Registration to you and will record your copyright claim. Your federal copyright registration will provide notice to members of the public of your claim to the copyrighted work.

If you discover that someone infringes your copyright, your federal copyright registration permits you to sue in federal court. If you do not own a federal copyright registration, you cannot sue in federal court, absent another federal claim, as the federal courts hold exclusive jurisdiction over federal copyright claims. If you register your copyright within three months of publication of the work or prior to any infringement of the copyrighted work, you may be entitled to statutory damages and possible recovery of your attorney’s fees under the Copyright Act. Because of your copyright registration, you will not need to prove actual damages, but you may elect to do so. If you register your copyright before publication of the work or within five years of publication, your copyright registration serves as prima facie evidence in court of the validity of your copyright. If you wait longer than five years after the publication of your work to register your copyright, the court is not required to accept the registration as prima facie proof of validity.

As a copyright owner, you own certain exclusive rights under the Copyright Act, including the right to reproduce your copyrighted work, the right to produce derivative works, the right to display the work, and the right to perform the work, among others. The rights you own as the copyright owner are often referred to as the copyright owner’s “bundle of sticks.” As with a real bundle of sticks, you can give away the entire bundle of sticks to a third party, or you may give only one or two of your sticks to a third party.

Copyrights are personal property rights, and as such, they are freely transferable to third parties. Copyrights may be assigned and transferred. For a copyright assignment, the copyright owner generally sells all of the exclusive rights owned by the copyright holder to another party and has no control over how the party uses the copyrighted work after the assignment. Transfer of any of your exclusive rights under the Copyright Act may be done on an exclusive basis to one individual or entity or on a non-exclusive basis to multiple individuals or entities. For example, if you are the author of a book, you may grant your publishing company the exclusive right of reproduction, which allows them to make copies of your book for sale.

Copyright licenses may be either express or implied. Express copyright licenses are express grants of rights created by an actual agreement between the copyright owner and the licensee. The conduct of the parties generally creates implied licenses. If you want to transfer any of your exclusive rights, the transfer of rights must be in writing and signed by you as the owner of the rights. If you transfer your copyright to someone else, the Copyright Office permits you to record the transfer in the Copyright Office. Although recordation of a copyright transfer of ownership is not required, it provides certain benefits, such as providing notice to third parties of the copyright transfer.

A copyright license permits the copyright owner to maintain ownership of the copyright while allowing another party to use some or all of its exclusive copyright rights. Our legal counsel has extensive experience copyright assignment agreements and copyright licensing agreements.

Do you need a copyright cease and desist letter? Our copyright lawyers routinely draft and issue copyright cease and desist letters to infringing parties. Generally, these letters will demand that the infringing party cease and desist all use of your copyrighted material. The letter may also request monetary damages or requests for further information, such as sales figures. Copyright cease and desist demand letters usually include a one to two-week time period for the accused infringer to respond.

If you are the recipient of a copyright cease and desist letter, you may need to retain a copyright lawyer skilled in copyright litigation, as such disputes often escalate into complex legal battles. If the owner of the work holds a valid copyright registration, you may be facing statutory damages, which can range from $750 to $30,000 per act of infringement. You may face up to $150,000 in statutory damages if you have been accused of willful copyright infringement. The copyright owner may also elect to seek actual damages against you or an award of lost profits. If you do not respond to a copyright cease and demand within the time period stated in your letter, the copyright owner may choose to file a federal copyright infringement lawsuit against you. The copyright owner may be able to recover the attorney’s fees incurred in the lawsuit.

Unfortunately, many copyright trolls exist. Copyright trolls typically own a registered copyright but may do nothing with that copyright but for monetizing it through the issuance of copyright cease and desist letters or the filing of copyright infringement lawsuits.. Many times, you may have a valid defense to a copyright troll. For example, your use of their material may be fair use, which is a defense to copyright infringement.

If you are the recipient of a copyright cease and desist demand, contact the copyright Dallas intellectual property lawyers at Ritter Spencer Cheng PLLC. Our copyright attorneys are experienced in defending against copyright trolls and negotiating with copyright owners who believe their works have been infringed.

A publishing contract is a contract between a publishing company and an author for the publishing company to publish the written material composed by the author. If you have written a book, manuscript, novel, screenplay, or other form of written material that you desire to be published, you will likely negotiate with several publishing companies. Each company will have its own publishing contract or publishing agreement. These contracts are often littered with onerous terms that may not benefit you as the individual author. For example, many publishing contracts attempt to have you assign your copyright for the entire term of the copyright to the publishing company.

As a first-time author or writer, it can be difficult to negotiate some of the boilerplate terms that often appear in standard publishing agreements. However, it is important to be aware of these terms and to understand their implications before you sign any publishing agreement.

The Dallas intellectual property lawyers at Ritter Spencer Cheng PLLC are experienced in reviewing publishing contracts. We can advise which terms are favorable and which terms you may want to attempt further negotiations. Our lawyers can also negotiate on your behalf with the publishing company.


If you believe that someone is using your copyrighted work without your permission, it may be necessary to take legal action. When you own a copyright that is registered with the United States Copyright Office, you have the right to file a lawsuit in federal court against someone infringing your copyright. Our Dallas, Texas copyright lawyers are experienced in the prosecution and defense of federal copyright infringement actions.

Your copyright registration entitles you to statutory damages for infringement of your copyright, which can range from $750 to $30,000 per act of infringement or to actual damages or lost profits. If the infringer has willfully infringed your copyright, you can receive statutory damages up to $150,000 for willful infringement. You may also be able to recover your attorney’s fees incurred in the lawsuit.

If you have received a copyright, cease and desist, or have been served with a federal Complaint for copyright infringement, it is important to retain a copyright lawyer experienced in intellectual property litigation for your defense. Certain defenses, such as the fair use defense, exist that may preclude a finding of copyright infringement. However, the fact that you did not know that the work was copyrighted is no defense to a copyright lawsuit. Generally, this is referred to as being an innocent infringer. Being an innocent infringer may help to mitigate a damages claim against you, as the court will have the discretion to reduce a damages award to no less than $200 per act of infringement.

The United States Copyright Act is routinely referred to as a strict liability statute. This means that the owner of a copyright has no requirement to prove that you acted willfully or intentionally in using their copyright, but they may do so to secure an award of enhanced damages for willful copyright infringement.