Copyright Rules To Remember

Copyright rules to rememberIn the digital age, content creators have extra pressures protecting their works, so here are some copyright rules to remember.

Copyright is a form of legal protection against copying and redistributing content without the rights-holder’s permission. In some territories (USA, UK, Canada, Australia and others) creators don’t have to officially register copyright. Declaring copyright is sufficient to gain copyright protection.

Under strict copyright, no one can copy content without the rights holder’s permission. This includes performing, distributing copies, public display, or creating derivative works. Any of these constitutes copyright infringement subject to court action.

Creators can register copyrights with the official copyright bodies. This provides stronger legal protection if an infringement case comes to court. Creators don’t have to officially register copyright in order to pursue a copyright case. There has to be evidence of a copyright declaration at the time of the original creation of the work.

Copyright must be publicly asserted, but a copyright symbol © isn’t mandatory  to protect content.

The creator of a work is usually the rights holder. Copyright can be assigned to others (often for commissioned works). It can also be sold, traded, or inherited.

Copyright applies to published and unpublished works that have a tangible form, such as music, artwork, photos, plays, poems, novel, movies, software, architecture and others.

It does not apply to ideas, which is where patents and intellectual property applies.
It does not apply to facts – you cannot copyright the freezing point of water, for example or Napoleon’s birth date.

Trademark law is slightly different, where you can protect a logo, a trade name or a person’s likeness (like Elvis Presley).

In summary:

  • ‘Online’, doesn’t make content automatically free.
  • Public Domain and Creative Commons licensing allows for making content free or several levels of use including non-commercial, derivative works and more.
  • You have a right as a creator to have your work protected from copying and you can also give your own content a Creative Commons license.
  • Always ask the content creator for permission if there is any doubt over permissions.

Image credit: A spirit duplicator, Swedish model “Plentograf”, by Kimsaka, CC BY-SA 3.0