All forms of original creations, be it artwork, a recorded song, a written story, a photograph, or any intellectual work, are protected automatically by copyright. This offers its creator an exclusive right of distributing, making copies, modifying, displaying, and adapting from the material for further reference. Using copyrighted content without seeking out the owner’s expressed permission can lead to copyright infringement troubles wherein you might be fined or sued for violating the Copyright Act.
What Do You Mean by Copyright Infringement?
This refers to the violation of intellectual property in scenarios wherein the person wrongfully using the creation of others is not its original owner. Today we are going to discuss about the infringement of copyright in brief so that you get to know about instances when you might fall into a legal fiasco even without knowing that you used copyrighted content and means through which you can distribute and copy someone’s work without infringing or violating any law.
Main Purpose of Copyright
Copyright offers a reward and incentive to the creators for their original work. Often the creators can benefit economically from the copyright and even claim proper recognition. They have the final role to play on deciding how their work will be distributed, reproduced, derived, adapted, streamed, aired or displayed. This exclusive set of rights encourage the creators for sharing their works over public platforms so that the general public can benefit from the same. However, the creators are not always under obligation of making their works public as the same copyrighted laws also extend to their unpublished work.
All original works come under the purview of copyright protection once the same is placed in a tangible format by the creator. Some of the examples of work with copyright protection are as follows:
- Music – melodies, operas, musical notes, musical plays and lyrics of a song
- Audio-visual – television shows, stage plays, movies, online videos, slideshows, video games, choreography and pantomimes
- Literature – essays, novels, articles, short stories, smartphone apps, computer software, manuscripts and poems
- Architectural – drawings associated with architectural plans
- Sound recordings – recorded speeches, CD and podcast
- Art – fine arts, graphics, maps, photographs, sculptures and diagrams.
Just because something is distributed over the internet doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a part of the public domain. You can thus be charged with copyright infringement on uploading, downloading or distributing copyrighted content without seeking the creator’s permission.
Copyright protection might not bring under its purview the following subjects mentioned below. In such cases, the owners can file other types of intellectual property protection like trademark or patent for ensuring the exclusivity of the following materials:
- Ideas and concepts
- List of ingredients
- Titles, taglines and slogans
- Standard information like measurements, calendars, weight or height charts
- Procedures, systems and methods
- Familiar symbols like ‘Men at work’ or a ‘No Smoking’ sign.
Protection Against Copyrighted Work
A creator can enjoy copyright protection on his work throughout his life. However, the protection terms end 70 years following his death. In cases of collaboration, the copyright protection shall last for 70 years following the last surviving creator’s death. A protection term of 95 years since the publication date exists for pseudonymous or anonymous creations.
Copyright law has a provision for ‘Fair Use’ which allows both reproduction and distribution of the copyrighted material at times without seeking the expressed consent of the owner. But in such cases, the original works should be either discussed, studied, taught, commented in public discourse or reported in the news for being disseminated without any legal repercussions. This helps to balance out public interest with the owner’s rights. Lets now take a look at some examples of this basic exception to copyright protection:
- Educational use where the protected work might be used for instruction, learning, or examination and is thus performed, photocopied, or played to enrich others with the knowledge.
- Copyright infringement does not apply to copies made for preserving archives and manuscripts.
- Distributing and reproducing copyrighted content for helping people suffering from disabilities is not termed as copyright infringement.
- Making back-ups of computer programs purchased and used lawfully doesn’t lead to infringement of copyright.
Popular Copyright Infringement Examples
The biggest instance of copyright infringement is the use of unauthorized music in videos. You might become liable for legal prosecution if you do not obtain the permission of using a song in business presentations, home movies, or your creative assignments. Social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube also mute or flag down music on the issue of copyright violation. Creators often put up their creations online for free downloads. But instances of copyright violation might arise on downloading an unauthorized e-book, software, music, TV show, or movie from any website which is not owned by the creator. In most cases, these unauthorized websites urge non-suspecting users to share the content with others and can ultimately lure you into a copyright infringement trap without your knowledge. Some popular copyright infringement examples are mentioned below:
- 20th Century Fox, the producer of Star Warssued Universal Studios for its sci-fi production Battlestar Galactica as that contained at least 34 similarities with that of the space saga.
- A Harry Potter lexicon was created by Steven Jan Vander following 7 years of hard work. However, a lawsuit was filed by both Warner Bros. Entertainment and J.K. Rowling against Vander Ark and his publisher for copyright infringement.
Tips to Avoid Copyright Infringement
- It is always safe to assure that copyright laws are protecting every single piece of work. There is a high chance that someone already owns the rights if you cannot specifically find a statement confirming the public nature of the material. For using original material, you should seek out the written approval of its owner.
- Prior to using materials from a website, it is always advisable to conduct adequate research at your end. In most cases, they will provide all the crucial details in the first line itself.
- There are a plethora of options under the Public Domain which offers free-to-use materials. From these portals, you can search for commercially viable options.
Lastly, it is best to either create your own work or purchase it from someone rather than making an unauthorized usage and then paying the price.
These disputes are resolved either via direct negotiation wherein a notice is sent for taking down the unauthorised publication or distribution. Alternatively, it might be passed on to the civil court.
The copyright holder has to prove that substantial similarity exists between the works of the infringer and himself and this similarity doesn’t arise out of using the same research material in both cases.