I am an author of an original work (document) that I developed for education use. I am working with a non-profit (501c3) entity. Aside from a copyright mark on the document, what else can I do as I start to "test" the value of the document in the 501c3 corporation?
State/Country relating to question: Ohio
It sounds like you want to test the economic value of your project, for instance by trying to sell it, or give it away, and measure market interest? Can you say more?
Correct, I am looking at the bigger picture of providing this as a book, or part of a book, that could then be sold to the 23,000 high schools in North America. I have had an association with the 501c3 in question for several years, but they are a corporation, and I am not a corporation nor an attorney.
In the interest that has been developing around the document that I have authored, the span of control has to leave my hands, and I am worried about somebody else taking my 100% developed "product", ripping it off, and cashing in on it. I understand that it is not an idea that I am trying to protect, but my work.
So, a little detail on this : it is a "leadership lab" that takes 16 to 40+ teenagers and seperates them in to 4 or 5 different organizations (countries). The activity includes hand outs (maps), stubs of information for each country, etc. It takes me a few hundred hours to develop one of these, and they've been very popular with the 500+ teens that have been participants when the activity is held. The activity has been 100% tested within the confines of the 501c3 that I have volunteered my time to for 19 years.
As our 501c3 is organized at a local (city) level, then at a state level, then a multi-state level, and national level, the interest in this is now elevated to the multi-state level, and I cannot have span-of-control of the document.
Information from copyright.gov has been helpful at a high level, but I really want to prevent any stupid mistakes. It may seem like a trivial thing for you, but if I don't ask for guidance, I'm sure I could miss something.
So, I'll put the question this way : If I am sharing this document for the purpose of further testing of the product and developing a sense of market interest, with the goal of licensing / selling the document - all in the U.S., how would you consult?
Your work is protected by copyright by default. The moment you put your work onto paper (or disk, or any other semi-permanent form) it is protected. That protection will not stop someone from copying the ideas, but it will stop them from copying the actual text, design, and so on. Depending on how you did the work, either you own it, or the 501(c)(3) owns it. (That depends on your employment status with them, if any, and on any written contract you might have with them.) If you are not employed by them and you don't have a written contract, then you are the author and it is protected now in your name.
Hope that helps. Good luck.
Just for clarification, if I have digital documents that are referenced as "Attachment A", "Attachment B", etc - as seperate digital document - does each seperate document need a copyright?
If I do place the copyright as it currently reads, "Copyright 2012 Michael C. Sidman", and eventually form an LLC am I limiting myself anyway?
Thank you for your comments!
Each document is separately copyrighted automatically. See my note above. Once yo save it in memory, it is protected by default. You can register it formally with the Copyright Office if you want to, and that will give you some minor advantages if you end up litigating these issues, but it's up to you. The cost is roughly $30 per work.
As for the copyright listing, you should use your name for now, as author. If you make an LLC, you can always write a contract that moves ownership of the copyright from you to the LLC.
I forgot to also ask about the interim "loaning" of the document to the 501c3 - if I state that the document is provided on loan for a specific use on July X by Firstname Lastname, does this help protect against the "unauthorized" use of the document, as there is some market sensing / development that may still be taking place?
As copyright holder, you can specify whatever restrictions you see fit when you share the work with someone else. I wouldn't use the word "loan" -- I would write up more clearly exactly what they can and cannot do.
Professor of Law at Top-Tier Law School, specializing in patent & copyright
I notice that you haven't yet accepted my answer. Was there something else I could help you with? Thanks.
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