In the internet age, issues surrounding copyright law have become an increasingly pressing issue. Technology makes it easy to copy, alter, share information and intellectual property. This includes anything from text and audio to images and video. A major problem that we are facing today is that people do not fully understand the copyright laws, potentially resulting in an illegal and costly situation. I recently came across a blog by Daniel Scocco on Daily Blog Tips, that discusses some important dos and don’ts of copyright law. This inspired me to share some thoughts of my own on the issue as it is important to help spread this information and educate others on copyright law so that they can avoid finding themselves on the wrong side of the law.
Here are 8 things that you need to know about copyright law:
1) You can use material under public domain
You are legally allowed to use any work that is in the public domain. This information includes federal government documents, materials produced before 1923, and materials produced before 1977 without a copyright notice.
2) Use facts and ideas
Copyright Law allows people the freedom to express facts and ideas. You can use the form, combination and structure of documents but not the facts themselves. These laws protect you and allow you to use facts and ideas reported on by other websites or articles.
3) Other materials that are not subject to copyright
There are a number of other types of materials that cannot be protected under copyright law. These materials include names, familiar symbols, listings of ingredients or contents, short phrases, titles, slogans, and procedures.
4) If you find it interesting then you should quote it
The Copyright Act defines the short quotations for the purpose of criticism, commentary or news reporting that are considered “fair use.” Keep in mind that the quote should involve only a small section of the work. For more information on this subject, I recommend you check out this article.
5) You can use a company name or logo if you are talking about it
If you are talking about a company then you are allowed to use their name or logo in your work. Trademarks are in place only to protect a company from people trying to use its name or logo to deceive customers.
6) Can’t find the copyright holder? You still can’t copy
Just because you cannot find the copyright holder does not mean that the material is free to be copied. If you locate the copyright holder and contact them, but get no response, you would still be infringing on the copyright law if you go ahead and use the material.
7) Do not copy material just because it does not show a copyright message
The Copyright Law required a copyright notice to protect works until 1977. However, the law changed and abolished this requirement for copyright notice in 1978. So what does this mean? Every published work automatically gets copyright protection, whether it is expressed with a notice or not.
8) You cannot copy material just because you will not be using it for a commercial use
Even if you are not using the material for a commercial use, the material you use may still infringe upon the law if you do not have explicit permission. However, making commercial use of copyrighted material does make it a lot easier for the author to claim damages.