Understanding What Copyright Means
As any writer, artist, web designer, musician or person that creates something can attest to, it is frustrating to see something they have poured their soul into be taken and used without their consent. A copyright provides protection against this very thing from happening. It gives the creator the ability to decide the use of their work as well as the reproduction of original content. A copyright also entitles him to seek removal of his work and/or punitive damages when used without his permission.
A copyright in plain language gives you the legal means to protect your work. A copyright defines what you have created as personal property.
The Protection of a Copyright for You and Others
Title 17 U.S. Code § 102 clearly defines the works that are covered by copyright:
- Literary works;
- Musical works, including any accompanying words;
- Dramatic works, including any accompanying music;
- Pantomimes and choreographic works;
- Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works;
- Motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
- Sound recordings; and
- Architectural works.
In the United States the very moment a work is completed it is protected under copyright law. So what does this actually mean? This means that no one is allowed to copy, reproduce or redistribute original work without the consent of the original owner’s permission. We are not allowed to “copy and paste” quotes, song lyrics, pictures etc. from a web site without permission from the owner of the copyrighted material.
What Can’t Be Copyrighted
You cannot copyright a name, idea, concept, discovery, explanation or a principal. If it is not an actual, permanent form of expression it cannot be copyrighted.
Copyright Notice or Symbol
While a copyright notice and symbol are no longer necessary to protect your content they can be useful in that they show your work is protected and informs others of copyright ownership. It can also provide a time stamp should infringement become an issue.
Is it Necessary to Register a Copyright?
While it is not required to file paperwork for a copyright there are some benefits to doing so:
- It creates a public record of ownership.
- If you ever needed to file an infringement suit you would need to have a public record of ownership in the U.S.
- If done within a certain time frame (five years) the certificate gives you time dated verified proof of ownership.
- If you file before an infringement suit you are eligible for damages as well as lawyer fees in the court action.
Regardless of whether or not you file for a copyright your work is copyrighted but filing the paperwork does make things easier if you should ever have to take legal action.
Copyright infringement is when someone distributes, sells, or reproduces something without the original owners consent. It is the unauthorized use of the owners work and is cause for legal action.
Legal Action for Copyright Infringement
Copyright infringement is usually a civil matter, though in some cases infringement may be subject to criminal penalties as well. It is probably best, when your rights are infringed, to contact an attorney that specializes in copyright law. If you choose you can contact the infringer in writing with a Cease and Desist Letter or a DMCA Take down Letter without the aid of an attorney, we have sample forms that you can use or alter to your purpose.
Deciding what fair use is and what is infringement may not always be clear. Section 107 lists several reasons it may be fair such as news reporting, comment, criticism, teaching and research. There are four factors used to determine if it is fair use.
- The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
- The nature of the copyrighted work
- The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
- The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work
Fair use is very limited and restricted in its use. In general it is best to get permission to use any copyrighted material from the original owner.
Finding an Attorney
If after making an effort to contact the provider or infringer there has not been an effort to rectify the situation in a timely manner you should contact an attorney. There are lawyers that specialize in Copyright Law as well as Internet Law. You can find an attorney at LawyerRatingz.com.
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.