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Play It Safe: Making Sure You're Not Committing Copyright Infringement
Copyright infringement is not an easy thing to explain. While it may seem as simple as not using someone else?s work, it?s not that easy. Thanks to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and many other organizations, we have the ability to use others? works ? as long as we use it under ?fair use? laws. So what does fair use have to do with copyright infringement, and how can you utilize it?
Fair use laws are the conditions in which you can use a copyrighted work without having to pay someone royalties. This includes when you use a copyrighted work for educational or instructional uses, criticism of the work, commentaries on the work, news reporting about the work, teaching on the work (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship uses, and research. This is talked about fully in Section 107 of the Copyright Code (commonly called Fair Use) and is available for you to read at your local library.
Copyright Infringement in day-to-day life
Sometimes, if you?re writing a paper for work or school, or if you are creating a Power Point presentation, you need to use someone?s work that is already in copyright. So how do you use it without committing copyright infringement? All you have to do is ask ? the worst they can say is no, right? But, if they do say no, there are several items in the public domain which may help you to finish your project without having to commit copyright infringement.
What is the public domain, and how does it relate to copyright infringement?
Material that is not copyrighted is considered in the public domain ? you cannot commit copyright infringement on works in the public domain. These works include things that the copyright has expired on, or is not copyright-able ? such as government publications, jokes, titles, and ideas. Some creators (writers, musicians, artists, and more) deliberately put their work in the public domain, without ever obtaining copyright, by providing an affiliation with Creative Commons. Creative Commons allows people who create materials to forfeit some, or all, of their copyright rights and place their work either partially or fully in the public domain.
So, how do I ensure I?m not committing copyright infringement?
First of all, if you?re going to use someone else?s material, you may want to check the public domain to see if something is suitable for use, instead of trying to use someone else?s copyright. However, if you can?t find something suitable (and you can?t create something yourself), the next best thing (and your only legal course of action) is to find a piece that is in copyright, and contacting the copyright holder.
When you contact the copyright holder, make sure you tell them what you want to use their piece for ? whether it?s for your blog, podcast, or report ? and ask them if you can use it. You may have to pay royalties, or an attribution in your piece, or a combination of both. The creator may also place many limitations on when and how you can use their material. Follow all these instructions they give you, and you?ll be free and clear to use their work as you want.
Once you have permission to use a copyrighted work, you need to make sure you stay within the agreed-upon boundaries - if you veer outside their agreed terms, you may open yourself up for a copyright infringement lawsuit ? which can be nasty, costly, and time consuming. If you?re in doubt, before contacting the copyright holder, contact a copyright lawyer to ensure you?re following the law ? and protect yourself!
Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Who are in Copyright Infringement Lawsuits? A copyright infringement lawsuit can be brought down for any number of reasons: someone using a song in a podcast or radio program, a writer ?borrowing? information from another work, the copying of video or mp3 off the internet without permission (or sometimes, even to another CD or DVD). Copyright infringement lawsuits are not generally brought to the average person, unless they?re downloading a LOT of music or movies, but usually for large operations: software pirates reselling goods on eBay or to some other unsuspecting victim, someone ?sampling? a song to make another, or maybe a person reselling mp3s online. When you understand the implications of it, copyright infringement lawsuits aren?t frivolous as some people may make it seem. For the most part, the average person?s familiarity with a copyright infringement lawsuit is taking down copyrighted material after receiving a nasty email. The use of works that are used in major record albums my major recording stars like Britney Spears or 50 Cent, people will begin copyright infringement lawsuits for songs that bear resemblance to another song. Usually these suits will be lost because it?s rather hard to prove inspiration, but they are rather costly and draining, especially if there isn?t a large backing legal team. Copyright infringement lawsuits for large enterprises can be rather costly and time consuming as well. If you work for someone, and you plagiarize someone on the company blog, the whole company can be sued, and you fired, for that infraction. Another large copyright infringement lawsuit is the eminent MySpace v. Universal Music Group, who is claiming that MySpace is knowingly committing copyright infringement by allowing it?s users to upload copyrighted material. Even then, Universal Music Group has been negotiating with MySpace and couldn?t come to an agreement ? then they filed suit. Universal Music Group has an agreement in place with YouTube, where YouTube agrees to follow Universal?s rules. It?s worked out well thus far, and I think with an agreement in place ?user created content? will retain a destination on the internet. This is a testament we all need to be with social networking sites and ?user created content.? We need to watch ourselves, because many times we may not realize the veracity of our actions. Sometimes, people break copyright laws on purpose. There is a huge market in the dealings of pirated software ? from Windows to Photoshop to The Sims. It?s very easy to share peer-to-peer, and because of that, people can resell ?pirated? for a high price ? all profit. Or they?ll download MP3 and resell them; or eBooks. These people who resell these items get nasty penalties ? with both copyright infringement lawsuits and criminal cases. They?ll pay a hefty fine and go to jail. As you can see, copyright infringement lawsuits can affect any one of us ? from our friends on MySpace to our employer, to the computer geek down the street. It?s very easy to violate copy rights, and you have to watch yourself. The chances are good that you won?t be involved in a major copyright infringement lawsuit, but you still need to ensure you?re following the copyright rules of engagement. Copyright infringement lawsuits are important in determining what is, and isn?t, applicable to copyright laws. Because of these lawsuits, our laws have changed regarding fair use, internet use, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation and CreativeCommons.com has been formed. The lawsuits help us to understand what is, and what isn?t fair ? and these organizations have helped the masses to understand what?s so important about copyright, and why we need to defend our freedom of speech.