Copyright Basics: How to Create Your Work and Keep It, Too

Is another business taking credit for your work? Our Legal Expert shows you how to prevent this from happening to you again.

Q: I’ve started a small home-based business making customized T-shirts, menus, mouse pads and other products. I take a picture and add designs or text to it. Recently, I did some menus for a business that just wanted a few. They asked me to put my business name and telephone number on them. I delivered the menus with everything they asked for. Then they took the menus to someone else and had copies made. The person who made the copies took my name off and put their own name on them, so it looks like they made the menus. Is there anything I can do to stop this? How can I keep this from happening again?

A: No one is allowed to steal your work and put his or her name on it. These things are protected under copyright laws. To get protection for your work, you have to meet three requirements:

1. The work has to be original, although it doesn’t have to be the only one of its kind.

2. There must be something tangible to the work-it can’t just be an idea. A mouse pad, T-shirt or menu is tangible.

3. The work must be in a protected category-art, sculpture, books, music, movies, videotapes, photos, software programs or other creative materials. Your graphic designs, photos and text would definitely qualify.

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