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What is copyright infringement?: Featured Article

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Copyright infringement happens when someone copies another person's work without permission. Anyone who copies another's work without their permission can faces serious problems. Legal action can be taken against the offender and they can even face possible prison time. In today's society the most common forms of copyright infringement are the Web. The images and content on website's can easily be taken without the consent of the owner.

What is a copyright?

In order to understand how copyright infringement works; you must first understand a copyright. Copyright laws protect your work from being redistributed or duplicated without your permission. Most copyrights are used for written work, but can be used for many other things such as photos. If you have your written work copyrighted, the protection will last the length of the author's life plus 70 additional years. Copyright infringement has become a large problem for many writers. The United States copyright laws state that "copyright is legally established the moment a work is created." Although this means you legally own this work, it is still a smart idea to register at the U.S. Copyright Office.

The best practice you can take is to put a copyright notice on every work you create.

There are 3 things that represent a copyright notice:

  • The word "copyright", the symbol "c", or the abbreviation "Copr."

  • The year of the first publication of the work (for example, if you created a work in 2003, and then added changes to it in 2007, you should still put copyright 2003 on the document)

  • The name of the copyright owner

What can I copyright?

Copyright laws apply to several things. The most common things that you can copyright are as follows:

  • Written work such as books, stories, journals, articles, and HTML coding (computer programs)

  • Pictures or graphics

  • Music or song lyrics (phonorecords)

  • Architectural blueprints

  • Scripts for television, plays, screenplays, or movies

  • Audiovisual recordings

  • Sound recordings

  • Web site content, design, or graphics

How copyright infringement is identified
Copyright infringement should be taken very seriously. You must gain written permission from the owner of the copyright. If you have not gained the permission of the owner, you have violated the owner's copyright and they can seek legal action.

Several companies have legal teams who search for any copyright infringement. Again, the web is a common violator of copyrights. Fan websites often copy music, images, and other content without the permission of the owner. Several larger companies have people and spiders (web crawlers) that will search the Web for images and text. If they find anything matches their content, that web site will be flagged and reviewed for copyright infringement.





Helpful Resources:
Wikipedia
This web site provides information about copyright infringement. It provides a brief overview and also provides specific examples of copyright infringement. It also discusses what piracy is and how it pertains to copyright laws.

Copyright Law
This web site defines copyright infringement and how it pertains to copyright law. It discusses the types of penalties that can be imposed for copyright infringement. It also provides steps you can take to avoid copyright infringement.

Official Government Website on Copyright Infringement
This is the official government web site about copyright infringement. It provides remedies for copyright infringement and the damages and profits, cost's and attorney's fees and the criminal offences of copyright infringement.

Copyright Infringement
This web site discusses information about copyrights and what copyright infringement is. It discusses copyright infringement as it pertains to web sites and what fair use is as well as what legal action can be taken.

US Copyright Office
The United States Copyright Office has provided this web site filled with information about copyright laws, how to copyright your material, pre-registration copyright information and many other things pertaining to copyrights.

Using others work on your website
This web site discusses the steps you need to take if you are using someone else's work on your website. It discusses what is protected under copyright laws and how you need to give the owner of the copyright proper recognition.

Copyrighting your Work
This web site provides great information about copyrighting your work. They can take care of everything for you directly from their web site. You are able to pay a fee and they will file all the paperwork.

Registering a Copyright
This web site discusses why you need to register your work for copyright and how you can register a copyright. It also provides a short overview of copyright infringement and how you can protect yourself.

Copyright for the Web
This web site provides information about copyright information for the web. It discusses what can be copyrighted and what actions can be taken if you suspect copyright infringement of your material.

Copyright Infringement for Artisits
This web site provides great information about copyright infringement for artists. It discusses the several aspects of art that qualify for copyright infringement such as: photographs, television, film, and print.




Of course, smaller companies may not have the necessary funds or man-power to search for copyright infringement. Many small companies learn about copyright infringement from word of mouth or by accident.

What is "fair use"?
Some people may argue "fair use" as a defense for copying another's work. Before you can claim "fair use", you must first admit to copyright infringement and prove why you thought it was okay to copy another person's work.

Educational research is often given the benefit of the doubt for copyright infringement. Many students use short excerpts from article and forget to attribute the source. A judge will have the final decision in your case to determine if you can use "fair use" as a defense. If you are writing a paper for school or anything for that matter, be sure to site your sources and give credit where credit is due.

The same rule applied to graphics or images from the web, be sure you have obtained permission and you site the owner of the photograph beneath the picture or image.

How to obtain permission
Obtaining permission from the copyright owner isn't too hard. You simply need to contact the owner and inform them why you would like to use their material. Then you will need to have them sign a permission form. Here is sample text you can use in a permission form:

"The Copyright Permission Request Form"
To:
Address:
Phone:
E-mail:

I (your name) herby request permission or reprint of the following (list what item, image, or text) from (owners name).

The use of this (image, text, etc.) will be for use in (website, research paper, etc.).

Full credit will be given to (owners name) when it is published.

(Add any other comments you wish)

From:
Address:
Phone:
E-mail:


What action you can seek for copyright infringement

Once you have discovered copyright infringement, keep records of all your findings. If it is content or images from your website, you should take screenshots. Keep everything together in a file if you end up going to court.

Find the owner or the article or website and contact them to find out if you can rectify the situation. Many people may not even be aware they have embarked upon copyright infringement and will be more than willing to reach an agreement.

If you are unable to rectify the situation, then you can seek legal action. If it is website material, you can contact the website hosting company and inform them of copyright infringement. Most hosting companies will investigate the copyright infringement and tell their client that they must remove the copyrighted material. Most hosting companies will also remove their website or suspend it if they do not remove the content from their page.

Of course, you can go the old fashioned way of slandering the offender. You can send out letters, take out advertisements, and inform people about how this offending company stole your material.

The last option is prosecution. Contact an attorney immediately to discuss your situation.

Your attorney will file the lawsuit with the following:

  • The issue order to prevent further use of copyrighted material

  • The appropriate amount of damages their client should receive

  • The appropriate amount of attorney fees the offender should pay

  • Most often the offender will use the following defenses:

  • "Fair use"

  • Innocent (such as a research paper or failure to know that the work was copyrighted)

  • The copyright owner gave permission, but failed to sign the form

  • Statute of limitations defense

If someone is found innocent, they will not have to pay legal damages, but they will have to remove the content, pictures, etc. immediately.

How you can protect yourself from copyright infringement
Have a copyright notice on all your work. If you have a website, be sure to place a copyright notice on each page. Many people install a `no right click' feature into their coding.

For photographs, you should place a watermark over each picture to refrain people from copying them. Some companies have designed their website in Flash format. The major problem with Flash format is that it does take a long time to download and search engine crawlers do not read it so your search engine rankings could be quite lower than they should be.

Insert copyright information into your HTML coding. This way, if someone steals your coding, you can prove it is yours because of the copyright because you inserted secret text.

How do I copyright my work?

Copyrighting your work is quite simple, here at the steps you should take:

Step # 1 - You will go to the U.S. Copyright office and fill out a copyright application form. You can also download this form from their website at www.copyright.gov
This application needs to be filled out as accurately as possible; if you fail to completely fill out the application it will be returned.

Step # 2 - Pay your application fee. Depending upon which type of material you are copyrighting, there will be a fee for filing. It is cheaper to file your application online ($35) versus through a paper application ($45). Of course this is just the rate for literary work; it is different for other works.

Step # 3 - Prepare your nonrefundable deposit. The nonrefundable deposit is a copy of the work you want to register. There are several stipulations upon the requirements of the work that is to be filed:

  • You must send 2 complete copies or phonorecords of your work if it was published before January 1, 1978.

  • You must send 2 complete copies or phonorecords of your best work if it was published on or after January 1, 1978.

  • If your work was not created in the United States, you must send the same work (2 copies or phonorecords) as it was originally published.

  • Again, depending upon the type of work you have created, there may be a different deposit required. Here are a few of the special deposit circumstances:

  • A phonorecording (this is anything that has been recorded such as a CD) must be sent in its entirety to the copyright office.

  • A computer program copyright is treated differently as well. You are required to send the first 25 pages of source code for the program. You must also send in the complete program if your program is less than 50 pages.

The complete application, a complete copy of your work (or the required work pages), and the appropriate application fee must be mailed in the same package to the U.S. Copyright Office. Of course, if you fill out the online application you will not have to do this (just a simple upload of your files will be sent to the Copyright Office).

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