Copyright Facts and Myths

The Purpose of Copyright

The purpose of copyright law is to provide a commercial framework to encourage creators to create, and to ensure that artistic, intellectual or other works of value are fairly rewarded.  The development of technology in general and the internet in particular has dramatically increased the ease with which works are created, published and indeed copied.  In this environment a number of misconceptions have become common currency.  This page attempts to provide some clarity on these points.

Take Note: This article is intended as a general introduction to copyright laws and is provided in good faith by Digiprove to help creators and others gain a broad understanding of the topic. It is not complete and although we have researched carefully, we do not warrant its accuracy. This article does not cover other forms of intellectual property protections such as patents, trademarks, design registrations, or the law regarding trade secrets, know-how etc. To obtain reliable advice for your particular situation you should refer to national and regional legislation AND consult a qualified intellectual property lawyer in your country and region.

COPYRIGHT FACTS

  1. Copyright covers a wide range of creations, including literary works, computer programs, dramatic works, artistic works, songs, music, sound recordings, movies, and so on.
  2. Originality is required, i.e. the work derives from the labour of the author.  There is however, no test of imaginativeness or inventiveness.  Certain exceptions exist; laws and official decisions or mere news of the day are generally excluded.
  3. Copyright exists in something from the moment it is recorded in any fixed perceptible form.  The form may differ, for instance it could be written down, recorded to tape, or recorded digitally on a computer.
  4. In general, by default the first owner of copyright is the person or persons who created the original work, although in some countries work created in the course of employment belongs to the employer.
  5. In case of dispute, it is the person who recorded the work in question in a fixed form first who is the real copyright owner, regardless of who published first, or indeed who registered the copyright.
  6. In addition to the economic rights associated with a work (which are assignable or transferable, usually for a fee), the original author of a work is entitled to be recognised as the author, and can object to the distortion, mutilation or other modification of the work which would be prejudicial to his or her reputation.
  7. Duration of copyright varies from country to country but generally is a long time, for instance in the U.S. for works published after 1978 the rights survive for 70 years after the death of the author, or (for anonymous works) 95 years from first publication or 120 years from creation whichever is shorter.
  8. There are certain specific situations where use of copyrighted material without the permission of the owner is permitted, although such use should always be accompanied by an attributions to the author. Among those situations is "Fair Use" (from U.S. law), covering use for criticism, review, teaching and certain other purposes.

COPYRIGHT MYTHS

  1. It is OK for me to copy or re-publish copyrighted content as long as I give credit to the original creator - False. The exclusive right to copy content belongs to the owner of the copyright. So unless you have explicit permission of the owner either granted to you, or granted generally, you are infringing copyright by re-using the work in this way.
  2. If something is published on the Internet, it is in the public domain and there are no copyright restrictions. - False The fact that a work is published on a website does not diminish copyright protection in any way. However once something has been so published it is available for theft, so authors should take steps to prove possession of the content before publication. However certain other IP rights may be affected by this, e.g. an idea that an inventor intends to patent should not be published prior to patent application.
  3. If there is no copyright notice with a work it is not covered by copyright protections - False That is no longer the case; whether or not a copyright notice is displayed has no bearing on the legal standing of copyright, and the non-display of the copyright notice does not confer any permission on anyone to use other people's work. It continues however to be a good practice as it is a message to would be content thieves that the author values their work, and it makes it extremely difficult for such a thief to claim innocent infringement.
  4. An author does not own the copyright in your work until it has been registered with the copyright office. - False Once a creation has been recorded in a fixed perceptible form copyright automatically exists.  In many countries there is no official registration process at all. Where such facilities exist, there may be good reasons to do so - for instance in the U.S. it is necessary to go through the official registration process prior to initiating any legal action in relation to copyright infringement.
  5. I own the copyright to my business name or business idea. - False Copyright does not protect names of any kind, nor does it protect ideas. For name protection you should look at trademark legislation or relevant registration authorities. An idea itself is not protected by copyright, although the expression of it which contains originality may be covered.

Useful References

We recommend the following documents/pages from official web-sites which offer specific information relating to copyright in the various jurisdictions, and we acknowledge our use of these websites in compiling this document.
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