Many people confuse the difference between copyright and trademark.  They are similar in that they both protect specific intellectual property rights, but the types of rights they each protect is very different.  Here is a brief primer on each to help explain the difference.

The US Copyright Office, the official government body that maintains records of all copyrights in the U.S., defines a copyright as “a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States for ‘original works of authorship,’ including literary, dramatic, musical, architectural, cartographic, choreographic, pantomimic, pictorial, graphic, sculptural, and audiovisual creations. ‘Copyright’ literally means the right to copy but has come to mean that body of exclusive rights granted by law to copyright owners for protection of their work. Copyright protection does not extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, title, principle, or discovery. Similarly, names, titles, short phrases, slogans, familiar symbols, mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, coloring, and listings of contents or ingredients are not subject to copyright.”  In simpler terms, a copyright protects original works including “literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works.” For example, a business can copyright its books, reports, audio or video materials and a musician can protect their original music.  A common misconception about copyrights pertains to when the rights are created.  In fact, a work is automatically copyrighted at the time of creation.  The purpose of registration is to enforce the copyright and registration is required if a business wants to sue over the use of the work by another party.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office states that a trademark protects “words, names, symbols, sounds or colors that distinguish goods and services from those manufactured or sold by others and to indicate the source of the goods.”  A trademark (or service mark) identifies a specific classification of goods and services.  This means that a company can register a trademark for its business name, slogans, logos and other items that essentially brand (or identify) the product or company.   Trademarks are an important business asset because control of your business mark allows your business to maintain a brand image and establishes the origin of certain goods and services.  For example, as a consumer when we see a particular trademark, whether Nike or Apple, we immediately know the goods or services related to those marks.  Like copyright, you can obtain legal rights in a trademark without registration. Unlike copyright, trademark rights are not automatic but, instead, come about from use.

For more info or help registering a copyright or trademark, contact Shaw Esquire at

By Nyanza Shaw, Esq.


Personal Branding Tips for Creative Artists

Branding has become a hot topic in all aspects of business in the last few years, but now branding has become a powerful tool for creative artists to distinguish themselves from their peers. As an artist, your brand is what you are known for. Your brand is what people say and think about you. Your brand consists of your name, logo, and other physical and digital assets that you can control and present to the public. It also includes your image, message, and sound. A strong brand can gain the attention of many potential fans.

The first step is to identify your brand. Determine what your art represents; what you represent; what do you want to say; and what you want to convey through your art. Your brand starts with who you are. It should be a reflection of you without necessarily exposing every layer of who you are. Many artists take a slice of who they are and magnify that part of their personality as their brand.

Next, identify your audience. The relationship you want to build with your audience is the foundation of your brand and career so you should be mindful of whom your audience is. Who are your target fans? And be realistic. The answer is not everybody. Are your fans tweens, millennials, or baby boomers? Your audience should be as specific as possible from age group, gender, to subculture, etc. Identifying your target audience will allow you to focus your energies to build a connection with them, distinguish yourself, and grow your audience. Of course, identifying your audience doesn’t mean that you are locked in to that demographic, it just gives you direction. The goal of any artist is to grow beyond their target audience.

Now that you have decided what part of yourself you want to present as your brand and who your audience is, here are a few branding tips:

1. Brand consistency: Brand consistency is very important. Make sure your logo, images, visuals, and art all connect. Make sure that your social media voice and marketing tone are also consistent with your brand. Brand consistency also applies to how you identify yourself and how fans find you. All of your social, digital, and online profiles should be consistent. All of your user profile names should be the same. Everything should be cohesive!

2. Your story: What do you want the audience and your fans to know about you? A great story should include interesting info about you that will attracts fans and press coverage. Create an elevator pitch for yourself and your art that is a succinct description of who, what, and why. Also, have a few, similar variations of that story. Every artist has their own story and so do you. Through your story, you can develop a unique identity that will allow you to interact with fans in an imaginative way.

3. Create engagement and longevity: Fans are the people who buy your art, support you, and even promote you to their family and friends. As part of your brand, decide how you want to engage with fans so they will follow you, grow with you, and help to create longevity in your career. Think strategically about how you can best reach and connect with your audience and maintain that connection. You can use traditional marketing and promotional tools or use more contemporary and viral means to engage them or both.

4. Execute!! Now that you have identified your brand, your target audience, and some marketing and promotional activities that will help get you out there and grow your brand; it is time to put them all together and execute. You must commit to it and invest the time into it. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Focused and measured steps can be quite successful. Be strategic and consistent!


Music Licensing Tips for the Documentary Filmmaker

To license music for your documentary film, the first thing you need to know is that there are two rights to every song. There is the person who wrote the song (who owns the publisher rights or sync rights) and the person who recorded it (who owns the master rights). To use a piece of music you must determine who owns the rights and get permission from both entities. Here are some tips for using music in your documentary:

1. Purchase Original Music – The best route is to purchase or commission original music. You can pay a musician or composer for exactly what you want, have an attorney draft a work for hire agreement, and you own it. No licensing fees!

2. Festival Rights – A great strategy for documentaries that have not yet obtained distribution is to seek festival rights. If you are going to take your documentary on the film fest circuit, you can obtain a festival license which is generally the lowest rates for specific limited rights. Festival rights agreements can also include option rights for when your documentary does secure distribution.

3. Streaming Rights – Even if your movie is merely streaming online, you must still obtain a license for any copyrighted music.

4. Royalty free music – Royalty free music is not free music. Royalty free means you do not have to pay a royalty for each use. Instead, you pay one set fee for the music no matter how many times it is used.

5. Music Libraries – Music libraries can be a great option for obtaining music to use in your film. These companies have an established and curated collection of music and sound effects to choose from, they have already obtained the necessary rights, and generally will post an upfront price.