Copyrighting can be very misunderstood and is often twisted to suit one’s own personal needs. There are myths and various misunderstandings regarding copyrighting that are fairly common and need to be clarified. The following is a list of some of the most frequent myths that surround copyrighting.
Debunking Copyright Myths
Click the tabs below to see our responses to these common myths.
FALSE - Unless the owner specifically states otherwise all material is copyrighted. The internet is the same as any other publication venue and does not make copyrighted content any less protected. The same rules apply on the internet as they would anywhere else. Public domain consists of titles, names, and ideas which cannot be copyrighted or content the owner gives specific permission to be used.
FALSE - All of these things are considered public domain. A name cannot be copyrighted but it can be trademarked (see uspto.gov). Typically it is larger businesses that register for trademarks but it is becoming more common place for smaller business to register as well.
FALSE - The moment you have completed your work it is considered copyrighted. While it is not required for you to register it does give you a time stamp for your content if someone were to infringe on your work. It also allows you to collect damages for more than just copyright infringement. It lets you collect court fees and attorney fees as well.
FALSE - Unless you have the creator’s direct permission you may not reproduce, copy, quote, or sell their work. Under the Fair Use Act there may be a few exceptions.
FALSE - Regardless of whether or not you make money from it, it is the original owner’s decision on how it is used and distributed. If you are devaluing the original work you are infringing on the owner’s copyright even if you are using it for non- profit and or educational purposes.
DOESN'T MATTER - The bottom line here is that without the consent of the original owner you could be infringing on their copyright. This falls under “fair use”. (See myth 5)
FALSE - Whether you use a sentence or a paragraph you are infringing on the original owners copyright. The legal system will look at what was used to determine if it devalues the original content or corrupts it.
FALSE - This myth falls under derivative work. Derivative work is taking someone else’s protected, copyrighted content and creating your own content which can also be copyrighted. Your work would have to be significantly different from the original content in order for this to not be copyright infringement. It is a very subjective area.
FALSE - This is often called the “Poor Man’s Copyright”. The jist of this is that you send yourself your original content in an envelope, time stamped, through the postal service and this will create a record of when your content was created. Here is the problem with this. You could send yourself an empty envelope and say that anything was inside of it. Likewise someone could come across your original content (that hasn’t been registered) and say they had mailed it to themselves five years ago. Envelopes can be opened and resealed. Regardless of what anyone tells you this will not hold up in a court of law. A good IP lawyer will drill holes in this type of defense.
FALSE - Lyrics are most definitely protected by copyright. The moment that any work is created it becomes protected by copyright law. No, you may not create an archive of song lyrics without first requesting permission from the artists. Yes, posting song lyrics is an infringement on the original owner’s content if you do not have their permission.
If in doubt always contact the original owner and request permission to use their content.
Neither the author of this document nor the operators of this website are attorneys or accountants. The information presented here should be considered a general overview. This information does not constitute legal or financial advice.