Top ten things you need to know about copyright
A call from a potential customer about copyright yesterday led me to recall some issues around what could and could not be “copied” or used. I found this valuable article on copyright and have included the headlines in this article below.
First lets look at what © copyright is:
“Copyright law secures for the creator of a creative effort the exclusive right to control who can make copies, or make works derived from the original work” – Brad Templeton
Definition:Copyright refers to laws that regulate the use of the work of a creator, such as an artist or author. This includes copying, distributing, altering and displaying creative, literary and other types of work. Unless otherwise stated in a contract, the author or creator of a work retains the copyright.
For a copyright to apply to a work, it must be an original idea that is put to use. The idea alone cannot be protected by copyright. It is the physical use of that idea, such as an illustration or a written novel, that is covered under copyright law.
Sources: Ralph E. Lerner and Judith Bresler. “All About Rights for Visual Artists.” Practising Law Institute, 2006.
The Top ten myths around copyright are said to be:
- “If it doesn’t have a copyright notice, it’s not copyrighted” – Not true, the person that created it automatically has rights
- “If I don’t charge for it, it’s not a violation” – Not true, copyright protection is about the creative act
- “If it’s posted to Usenet it’s in the public domain.” – Not true, the person that created it automatically has rights
- “My posting was just fair use!” -Not always true. Fair use typically means using a short excerpt and almost always attributed.
- “If you don’t defend your copyright you lose it.” Not true- a myth carried over from trademark law
- “If I make up my own stories, but base them on another work, my new work belongs to me.” -Not true
- “They can’t get me, defendants in court have powerful rights!” Copyright law is mostly civil law, beware those with deep pockets or those with access to powerful media!
- “Oh, so copyright violation isn’t a crime or anything?” – yes it is – it is often a matter of scale
- “It doesn’t hurt anybody — in fact it’s free advertising.” This decision is down to the copyright holder what they want done with the work – quite simply its their call.
- “They e-mailed me a copy, so I can post it.” To have a copy is not to have the copyright. All the E-mail you write is copyrighted. You can certainly report on what E-mail you are sent.
Bonus myth – “So I can’t ever reproduce anything?” Not strictly true, copyright isn’t a total block on what can or cannot be published.
Copyright has two main goals:
- protection of the author’s right to obtain commercial benefit from valuable work,
- protection of the author’s general right to control how a work is used.
Who owns the copyright?
Generally the person who created the work, unless there is a clause to the contrary in an employment contract
Copyleft & copyright “free”
There is much talk about “public domain” and copyright free content. One movement towards this is Copyleft. A play on words.
Copyleft is a general method for making a program (or other work) free, and requiring all modified and extended versions of the work to be free as well.
To copyleft a program or content, it must first be stated that it is copyrighted; then we add distribution terms, which are a legal instrument that gives everyone the rights to use, modify, and redistribute the content, or any content derived from it, but only if the distribution terms are unchanged. Thus, the code and the freedoms become legally inseparable.
Creative Commons (CC). Another option is the
Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that develops, supports, and stewards legal and technical infrastructure that maximizes digital creativity, sharing, and innovation.
So whatever you do – it is copyright somewhere – and always reference… and never the whole piece without explicit permission!