Copyright vs Copywriting: What’s the Difference?
We’ve been excited to write about this topic for a while. When networking with business owners, the question usually asked after “what do you do?” is… “So do you protect what you write?” Of course, we then actually spell out RIGHT vs WRITE to start explaining what we do. So what’s the difference between copyright vs copywriting?
Difference Between Copyright vs Copywriting
Copyright vs copywriting… 2 words that sound the same when spoken have completely different definitions and purposes. We’ll try and keep this explanation as simple as possible.
When you strip the terms down to fundamentals, they are both processes.
Copyright protects an item of value. It’s usually common with authorship of website copy, novels, or music.
On the other hand, copywriting is the process of creating something of value that an organization can use to promote the product/service, grow the business, and/or even make it more efficient or business-optimized.
Let’s dive a little deeper…
What is Copyright?
Copyright is “the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute the matter and form of something (such as a literary, musical, or artistic work).”Merriam-Webster
In the U.S., Copyright law has its foundations in Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, granting Congress the power to “promote 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”. The first original works protected by copyright were in 1790. Copyrights were later registered with and monitored by the U.S. Library of Congress. The federal Copyright Office was established as a separate entity to the Library of Congress in 1897.
According to the U.S. Copyright Office, a copyright provides legal protection for works of original authorship which are “fixed in any tangible medium of expression.” This means that the work to be copyrighted must be in a form in which it can be perceived by others, either directly, or with the use of a device.
(If you need an attorney to help you with copyright or trademark, we have trusted individuals that can help you out. Contact us to connect with one of our trusted referral partners.)
So there it is…
In layman’s terms, this means that if an organization wants to keep legal ownership of something it has created that is “fixed in any tangible medium of expression”, they must copyright it. Essentially, this means going through a registration process – similar in principle to registering a patent for intellectual property.
What Copyright Protects
According to the U.S. Copyright Office, copyright covers both published and unpublished works. So, FocusCopy holds the copyright to this blog!
A copyright is a legal device that gives the creator of a literary, artistic, musical, or other creative work the sole right to publish and sell that work. Copyright owners have the right to control the reproduction of their work, including the right to receive payment for that reproduction. An author may grant or sell those rights to others, including publishers or recording companies. When someone violates a copyright, it is an infringement.
- Copyright protects the expression of an idea or vision, not the idea itself. In legal terminology, this concept is called the idea-expression dichotomy. It has been an important feature of legal reasoning related to copyright. Ideas, procedures, processes, systems, methods of operation, concepts, principles, and discoveries are not within the scope of copyright protection work.
- Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed.
- In general, registration is voluntary. Copyright exists from the moment someone creates the work. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. copyright.
Copyright vs Trademark
So what’s the difference between copyright vs trademark? Isn’t copyright a trademark?
No, copyright protects original works of authorship. Whereas, a trademark protects words, phrases, symbols, or designs identifying the source of the goods or services of one party and distinguishing them from those of others.
What does this mean for you?
Again, in layman’s terms, any documents, website design, website content, sales materials, internal procedures, etc., that your business creates are wholly owned by you. No other party has any implicit rights or ownership of the material. So your organization can and should copyright your material.
(We are not attorneys or qualified to provide a legal opinion. If you need an attorney, we have several that we can introduce you to.)
How to Copyright Your Materials
So what should you do to copyright your materials as defined previously? Quite simply, unless you think you are likely to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. copyright against someone, include a copyright symbol © and copyright ownership statement in the document (e.g. © 2020, Your-company-name. All rights reserved.).
Of course, you should secure legal advice on the exact wording for your company. The previous text was simply provided as an example; it may not be legally sound for your location or company.
What is Copywriting?
Copywriting is a comprehensive process from planning to conceptualization of advertisements and marketing campaigns (including text that appears on websites, in emails, internal marketing, press releases, etc.). In the past, copywriting was a purely in-house job for a company with many companies employing gifted or highly talented writers.
However, since the tech-boom of 2000, or even a little before, the demand for tech writers and copywriters far outstripped their supply. The education system could not meet our demand for writers as many student’s focus shifted to jobs where they could make money and get rapid pay rises (i.e. technical, engineering, numerical and financial jobs). This left a vacuum.
As with all job-related vacuums, something always appears to fill the void.
In this case, outsourcers and freelancers across the globe filled the void. Some of the copy they write is terrible (just look at instruction manuals for inexpensive and sometimes even expensive electronics goods), and some copy is great. But mostly, it is average.
Today, organizations are looking for great copy.
Because they realize it helps drive and accelerate their company’s sales and growth. This is why copywriting services, like FocusCopy, thrive. It’s also why companies, more than ever before, are prepared to pay for great copy. But it doesn’t make it any easier to write!
The scope of a piece of copy is critical to the quality, applicability, and usefulness of the copy. Often, the scope is ill-defined. An ill-defined scope for a piece of copy may result in copy being provided that is…
- Not applicable to where it will be seen (i.e. in print, or on the Internet); the writers use different writing styles that work in one media but not the other
- Too technical, or not technical enough
- Inconsistent, often making the reader wonder what is going on with the company
- Written for the wrong audience and not providing what the real audience for the copy is expecting
These are key considerations that the copywriter (internal or external) must know prior to touching their keyboard.
Remember, contrary to many documents that organizations create, design your copy to sell. This means it should be…
- Concise. Attention spans are getting shorter; your copy needs to make your customer want to read more in about 8 seconds of reading time – maybe 2 or 3 sentences at most. In other words, the copy must communicate more using fewer words, yet still be clearly understandable
- Focused. To achieve #1, it needs a hook that demands more attention
- Engaging. To achieve #2, the hook must be unavoidable; if you succeed in #2, they must bite on the hook
- Convincing. Convince the customer to buy from YOU, not the other guys; now they are on the hook, you have more time to convince your customer and make them very comfortable with buying from you
Traditional Copywriting vs Technical Writing
Although we often link copywriting to sales and marketing activities, some copywriters, who have a technical bias, often do technical writing. What’s the difference between traditional copywriting vs technical writing?
- Copywriters write to sell
- Technical writers write to explain
- Technical copywriters do both
Regardless of whether the copy author is a trained copywriter or a technical writer, neither will successfully create the document your company needs without a tightly defined statement of scope for the copy.
As stated above, ownership of the copyright on the copy belongs to the author and their employer (as this is usually a legal agreement in their terms of employment).
So if you use an outsourcing company to create copy for you, who owns the copyright on the copy?
This can and perhaps should be a discussion you have with your legal team.
Require the ownership of the copy to be spelled out clearly and unambiguously in the terms and conditions you sign with your outsourced copywriter/copywriting company.
While different copywriters may have a different opinion, FocusCopy transfers the ownership of the copy to the buyer after it’s completed. But this is something you should verify with your copywriter.