Copyright protects original works of authorship and intellectual property as it relates to literary, musical, lyrical, dramatic, audio visual, audible, architectural, pictorial, graphical, sculptural, as well as many other types of intellectual creations belonging to the creator or designated owner. To be copyrighted, a work must contain a certain minimal amount of original literary, musical, or pictorial expression.
All works created since 1978 automatically become the copyrighted property of their creators, once completed in tangible form for the first time, without doing anything else; but many people still choose to file an application and pay the fee to register work with the copyright office as added protection in case of legal disputes. Works created prior to 1978 have federal copyright secured only through registration. Copyright is available for all unpublished work, regardless of where a person lives in the world and as of January 1, 1978, creator copyright ownership is protected for up to 70 years after the creator’s death.
Why Copyright Your Work?
Copyright protects against unauthorised reproduction, distribution, altering of the piece in any way, and performing or displaying the work publicly. Those with a visual arts copyright have additional rights granted which may be viewed on the federal copyright site.
The Myth of the ‘Poor Man’s Copyright’
There are many ways people have attempted to add additional protection to their intellectual property, including the commonly used “poor man’s copyright” method. The method involves mailing a copy of the original work to oneself via postal service in order to obtain a government time/date stamp as proof of ownership since a certain date. The method then requires leaving the package unopened until an issue arises at which point the package can be submitted to the court as evidence and opened. The bad news is that this commonly used practice does not actually grant any additional protection by the National Copyright Office. You can, however, file for additional copyright protection by registering your work at the copyright office.
Work Not Protected by Copyright
Underlying concepts, known facts, names, titles, short phrases, and clauses are not protected. Anything relating to the format, arrangement, and typography of a work are not protected. Standard calendars, height and weight charts, tape measures, rulers, schedules of sporting events, lists and tables from public documents are also not protected.
What are Patents and Trademarks?
Many people still seem confused about the differences between copyright, patent and trademarks. Patents and trademarks are very from copyright and very different from each other. Patents are used to protect inventions and discoveries, while trademarks protect words, phrases, symbols, and designs that represent products or services.
There are many exemptions to copyright law, usually to serve the public interest, however the works are still under copyright. Works made for hire are considered employer creations, unless otherwise negotiated and specified in writing by both parties. Most personal noncommercial performances of a work (ex. watching a movie with friends) are not violations of copyright either. Other major exceptions include: Library and archival use, fair Use (scholarship, criticism), noncommercial reformatting of material from one format to another (ie. space shifting and time shifting), works in the public domain, first sale, and parody or satire. Further information is available by consulting the national office.
Work Ineligible for Federal Copyright Protection
Improvisational speeches and performances that are not recorded in a tangible way (ex. by sound equipment or in writing) are not protected. Neither are titles, names, short phrases, slogans, ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, devices, principles, (as opposed to explanation, illustration, and description) and discoveries or work that utilizes common property and contains minimal or no original work.
Who Enforces Copyright Infringement Laws?
There are three primary branches of related federal authorities that are involved in protecting intellectual property. 1.) The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigates criminal counterfeiting, piracy, and other federal crimes. 2.) The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Computer Crimes and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) is responsible for implementing DOJ’s national strategies in combating computer and intellectual property crimes worldwide. Because of anti-counterfeiting activities and electronic crimes against financial institutions and cyber-crime, the Secret Service intervenes in computer crime enforcement. Consequently, consumers can assume that most everything on the internet is copyrighted and violations could result in quick and legal action. 3.) Lastly, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) keeps foreign pirated and counterfeit goods from being imported in. CBP started intervening in trademark and copyright violations since the first incident of “Star Wars” piracy, and has been actively involved since, regularly arresting individuals selling counterfeited merchandise and trademarked products without permission. In addition, the Department of Consumer protection and the Department of Licensing are two other related branches would help enforce copyright violations.
How to Make a Claim
Anyone believing he has a case of copyright infringement can contact a lawyer, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Intellectual Property Program and to the person using the copyrighted work without permission. Items necessary to file a claim include ID for the copyrighted work claimed, including the URL and a basis for the claim, complete contact information for the supposed owner of copyright, a statement under penalty of perjury that the owner or someone with legal authority to represent the owner is the rightful owner of the copyright, and an actual or electronic signature of the owner or representative.
The copyright office offers deposit account services for those who use their services frequently. Individuals and businesses can make advance deposits into their accounts and charge copyright fees against the balance in their accounts.
For a thorough understanding of terms, nuances, symbols, rules and regulations, advice on the best form of protection for a specific work and a list of current international copyright laws, consumers are encouraged to call the Copyright Office for Public Information 202-707-3000 or to visit www.copyright.gov
How can I protect media files I’ve created from unauthorised use and copying?
There are many ways to protect the material you have made yourself. Digital Rights Management can be used to ensure only your authorised audience can play back the material. DRM does risk antagonising your intended audience especially at times of hardware or software updating. Some DRM measures are so stringent (for instance time limited licensing) that accessibility can be severely limited. Many online collections have abandoned DRM in favour of streaming formats which cannot easily be downloaded to a local machine.
By far the most popular method of copyright protection is a clearly displayed statement, spelling out permissions. Creative Commons is a public realm licensing scheme which gives content creators a multi-layered set of options ranging from open reuse which simply requires the creator to be credited to clear stipulations of just how the content should be reused.
Copyright Duration For films
Copyright expires at the end of the period of 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the death occurs of the last to die of the following persons:
a. The principle director b. The author of the screenplay c. The author of the dialogue d. The composer of music specially created for and used in the film
However, if the identity of one or more of the persons referred to above is known yet the identity of one or more of the others is not, the reference to the death of the last of them to die shall be construed as a reference to the death of the last whose identity is known.
Moreover, if the identity of all the persons listed above is unknown then copyright expires at the end of the period of 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the film was made, or if during that period the film is made available to the public, at the end of the period of 70 years from the end of the calendar year it was first made available.
Where the country of origin is an EEA state and the author of the film is not a national of an EEA state, the duration of copyright is that to which the work is entitled in the country of origin.
Fair dealing – acceptable use of copyrighted materials
The owner of the copyright in a particular work or works has the exclusive rights to the following acts in the United Kingdom:
a. To copy the work . To issue copies of the work to the public c. To rent of lend the work to the public d. To perform, show or play the work in public e. To communicate the work to the public f. To make an adaptation of the work or do any of the above in relation to an adaptation
That said copyrighted material can be used in a number of ways whereby copyright is not infringed.
The following is a description of some of the ways in which copyrighted materials can be used without infringing the copyright. It is stressed that this is not an exhaustive list. For a full list please refer to the Copyright, Design and Patent Act 1988
3.1 Making temporary copies
The making of temporary copies of copyrighted works which is transient or incidental and which are not produced for economic gain do not infringe copyright. The types of work included are literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works, the typographical arrangement of a published edition, a sound recording or a film. Making temporary copies does not apply to computer programs or databases.
3.2 Research and private study
Fair dealing with a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work for the purposes of research for non-commercial purposes does not infringe any copyright in the work as long as an appropriate acknowledgement is also included.
3.3 Criticism and review
Fair dealing with a work for the purpose of criticism or review does not infringe any copyright in the work provided that an appropriate acknowledgement is included (and provided that the work has been made available to the public). For the purposes of the Act a work has been made available to the public by any means if one or more of the following have been undertaken:
a. Copies of the work have been issued to the public b. The work has been made available by means of an electronic retrieval system c. Copies of the work have been lent to or rented to the public d. The work has been performed, exhibited, played or showed in public e. The work has been communicated to the public
3.4 Incidental inclusion of copyright material
Copyright is not infringed if a work is included incidentally in an artistic work, sound recording, film or broadcast. Moreover, copyright is not infringed if such incidental material is issued to the public in the form of copies of the material or the playing or showing of the material to the public.
3.5 Instruction or examination
Copyright in a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work is not infringed by its being copied in the course of instruction or of preparation for instruction provided the copying is undertaken in line with the following:
a. It is done by a person giving or receiving the instruction b. It is not done by means of a reprographic process – for the purposes of the Act a “reprographic process” is defined as making facsimile copies, or involving the use of an appliance for making multiple copies. This includes work held in electronic form, any copying by electronic means but does not include the making of a film or sound recording. c. Sufficient acknowledgment accompanies any copy – for the purposes of the Act “sufficient acknowledgement” means an acknowledgement identifying the work in question by its title (or other description) and identifying the author unless in the case of a published work it is published anonymously, or in the case of an unpublished work, it is not possible to ascertain the identity of the author by a reasonable enquiry. d. The relevant instruction is undertaken on a non-commercial basis
Copyright in a sound recording, film or broadcast is not infringed by its being copied by making a film or film sound track for the purpose of instruction provided the copying is undertaken by the person giving or receiving the instruction and that an acknowledgement accompanies the copy.
Copyright in a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work which has been made available to the public is not infringed by its being copied in the course of instruction if the following apply:
a. The copy is done by a person giving or receiving the instruction b. The copying is not done by means of a reprographic process c. That sufficient acknowledgement is given to the copy d. That the copying is undertaken in line with fair dealing
It should also be noted that copyright is not infringed by anything done for the purposes of an examination as long as an appropriate acknowledgement is given and where the copying is done to set the questions, communicate the questions to the candidates or by candidates answering the question.
What is Creative Commons?
Creative Commons is a not for profit organisation which provides free tools for creators to make the sharing and using of images easier. There are six main licences that can be used:
Attribution – allows others to use an original work in a variety of ways (including commercial purposes) as long as the originator of the work is credited.
Attribution share alike – allows others to use an original work in a variety of ways (including commercial purposes) as long as the originator of the work is credited and any derivative is licensed with identical terms.
Attribution no derivatives – allows for the distribution of images where the originator is credited and where no changes are made to the original work.
Attribution non-commercial – allows others to use an original work as long as the purpose is non-commercial and the originator of the work is credited.
Attribution non-commercial share alike – allows others to use an original work as long as the purpose is non-commercial, the originator of the work is credited and any derivative works are licensed with identical terms.
Attribution non-commercial no derivatives – allows others to access and share original works ensuring that the use is for non-commercial purposes, the originator of the work is credited and that the original work is not changed in any way.