Ever since the 2007 to 2008 Writer’s strike, a great deal of discussion and comment is being made pertaining to the subject of copyright protection and infringements. Governments are quickly trying to bring Federal laws up to date to provide stronger protection to those who are now producing digital products.
A great challenge on the internet pertains to those who knowingly or unknowingly violate a copyright through the use of a well known Cut and Paste method. Which raises the question for many, “What is protected and what is not?”
A Copyright is designed to protect intellectual property. It provides ownership and the sole right to produce or reproduce a work or any substantial part of it. Any original work is protected by copyright law immediately upon coming into being, whether or not there is a copyright notice attached to the document. In other words, as soon as you lift your pen from paper upon the completion of creating an original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work, before the ink even dries, your work is protected by copyright law.
Copyrights last for a period recognized as being the life of the creator, plus the balance of the year in which the creator or author dies, plus an additional 50 years after.
Not all countries provide the same form, or level of copyright protection. The most common form of international copyright is based on an international treaty signed in Berne. The countries who signed this treaty are known as Berne Convention countries. Any copyright taken out in a Berne Convention country, is provided the same level of protection in all other associated Berne Convention countries. If you file a Canadian or a United States copyright, you are automatically protected in all other Berne Convention countries.
The question that is often asked is, “If protection is automatic, then is it really necessary to file for a registered copyright?”
Filing for a copyright is imperative if you anticipate your original work will have any monetary value during the period of time you maintain sole rights for that work. The benefit of a filed copyright comes into play when there is a dispute over ownership of the work. In a legal dispute, whoever holds a filed copyright will be recognized, without question, as the owner of the work. Without a filed copyright, legal disputes can become very costly with a typical copyright infringement lawsuit costing each party in the neighborhood of one hundred thousand dollars to achieve a final legally binding decision.
Many people become confused as to what they can copy from someone else’s work, and what they cannot copy, this is covered in the area otherwise known as “Fair Use”. Fair use allows people to quote a small reasonable portion of someone else’s work without permission. In the case of a written work, Fair Use allows a quote of approximately 250 to 300 words to be used without permission, but the source of that quote must be identified. In other words, you cannot knowingly or even unknowingly quote someone else’s work and claim it as your own original work.
There is much confusion over how you can use someone else’s work and how you should not use it? If you have the undaunting task of writing a term paper on a subject, it is perfectly acceptable to do research from copyrighted material. A person can read from three or four different works and re-write in their own words those same concepts. A copyright protects the work, not the idea, or the concept behind the work.
Creating an original work, to some can be compared to giving birth to a new work. There is a great deal of pride in the ownership of a work. Working with the co-operation of a copyright holder brings to a new work, a synergy of excitement, and positive respect.
In all you do, in all you create, grab hold of the excellence life has to offer.