Q: I teach Design at a public school. Students and I produce a lot of work. Can I apply for trademark/copyright for program
I teach Graphic Design. Students and I create/take pictures for school, district and community. I would like to get the students credit for their work. Can I apply for a trademark or copyright that represents the entire program?
A: For graphic design work, your best bet is to apply for copyright protection under the visual arts category. The application process may be a bit intimidating the first time, but only costs $55 for a standard electronic application. One application can cover thousands of works of UNPUBLISHED work over any time period.
The catch here is, applications are restricted to one per author or group of authors. Each student would need their own application for their own work. One solution to transforming all of the student's work into work by a single author would be to employ the students to create a work-for-hire situation. When an employer tells an employee to produce graphic design work in connection to their work, the employer is the copyright holder and considered the author.
This may be totally unfeasible and have more drawbacks than benefits. One drawback is that the students would be giving up their rights in their work. To remedy this, you could form an LLC where each student is a member shareholder with equal interest in the LLC. Each student would contribute all of their work to the LLC.
This LLC formation and employment situation would probably be more complex than just having each student individually register their work with the Copyright Office. Copyright law is federal law, so you can ask any attorney who specializes in copyright law to help you through a copyright application the first time, then, in turn, you could assist students interested in registering their own work.
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