What Are Copyright Laws?


Intellectual property is any innovation, commercial or artistic; any new method or formula with economic value; or any unique name, symbol, or logo that is used commercially. Intellectual property includes copyrights, trademarks, and patents.

What is a Copyright?

Copyrights are fundamental rights written in our Constitution. Article 1, Section 8 states, “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” The Copyright Act of 1976 protects literary, musical, dramatic, audiovisual and choreographic works, motion pictures and sound recordings.

Copyright law protect original expressions fixed in a tangible medium. Additionally, individuals and entities are encouraged to create original works and in return, these creators receive certain exclusive rights to profit from their work. In order to understand what constitutes a protected copyright, one must understand what a copyright is not.

A copyright is not an idea, title, name, fact, federal government work, process and system, number, short phrases or slogans, or works in the public domain before 1923.  For example, a phonebook is not a protectable copyright. Many individuals believe that they must register their work with the copyright office in order for the work to be protected. An original work such as writing a fictional book secures a copyright automatically as soon as the person creates the work.  However, it is strongly recommended to register your copyright with the Copyright Office because this will afford you more protection from others using your work. The original creator of the work is deemed the owner and has the exclusive right to copy and reproduce the work.

The original creator is the owner of the copyright unless he or she signed an agreement to concede the intellectual property rights to another party through a “work for hire” or “assignment”.  Also, copyright owners can grant individuals licensees to use their work legally. Copyright protects most works for the life of the creator and an additional seventy years.  If a corporate created the work, then it is protected for 95 years from the publication date or 120 years from creation, whichever expires first.  Anything created before 1976 has a different copyright life span according to when it was created.

What is Copyright Infringement?

Copyright infringement is the use of works protected by copyright law without permission, infringing certain exclusive rights granted to the copyright holder, such as the right to reproduce, distribute, display or perform the protected work, and to make derivative works—meaning new versions or adaptations of your original work.

This could be stealing an artist’s music, downloading and uploading music and movies, copying someone’s written work, copying art or photographs, or uploading copyrighted content to websites. An example of copyright infringement is a website service provider allowing users to upload and download copyrighted material such as music, movies, and television shows.

A kodi box is a physical device, such as NetMaster or Steamsmart, that enables people to watch copyrighted material through open source streaming.  Kodi software itself is not illegal, but can be used for illegal purposes.  Similar to the kodi box, is the kodi app that Amazon firestick TV users illegal download or “jailbreak” so they can watch illegal content that is updated constantly to reflect new shows, music videos, movies, etc. Businesses and individuals commit copyright infringement online because it’s extremely easy to upload, download, and stream content.

What is Fair Use?

A good practice is to ask the owner for permission to use the work or to change the work enough that it will be considered “Fair Use.” Fair Use allows anyone to use copyrighted material without permission. However, courts look to a four-part balancing test. The four factors are: (1) the purpose and character of the work; (2) the nature of the original work; (3) the amount taken from the original work; and (4) the effect on the market value of the original work.

For more information on how to file a copyright application and/or protect your intellectual property rights in a written contract, please contact Slate Law. #copyright #knowyourrights


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