Are you Protected?

By Joshua, Gary, Zach, Dolan, and Benji

What is Copyright?

Although it is hard to explain copyright, and as Mark Twain once said, "Only one thing is impossible for God: To find any sense in any copyright law on the planet," we will try to explain it as well as possible. Copyright is a legal concept enforced in most countries that gives the author to original works exclusive rights to their "intellectual property" and works that they have created. This usually allows the owner of the copyright to maintain economic and moral rights legally. Anyone can hold a copyright and copyright laws apply to everyone, and although they can benefit the copyright holder they also can sometimes make life harder.
Copyright, What's Copyright?

History of Copyright

Copyright originated in 18th century England, precisely 1766, around 200 years after the death of Martin Luther, during the advent of the printing press. Around this time books were produced in large quantities and a large number of them were copied in an unregulated way. Charles 2 of England was concerned so in order to protect the monopolies of the printers he passed the Licensing of The Press Act 1662 by Act of Parliament, which was the earliest form of copyright. Ever since then copyright laws have been more and more complex. Here is a timeline of copyright:

Timeline of Copyright Laws

  1. The Licensing Act of 1662

8 Jun 1662

As an attempt to control publications from increasing numbers of presses and printers, England's Crown established a register of licensed books. Administered by the Stationers' Company, they were given power to seize material hostile to the Church or Government. (The Library of Congress, 2010)

2. Statute of Anne

10 Apr 1710

The British Parliament, under Queen Anne's reign, recognize rights of authors and establishes copyright which prevents monopoly of the bookseller. Known as an act for the encouragement of learning, the Statute of Anne creates "Public Domain" which limits terms of copyright and ensures limited control by the author over its use once a work is purchased. (The Library of Congress, 2010)

3. An Act for the Encouragement of Literature and Genius

8 Jan 1783

Noah Webster, author of American Spelling Book, successfully lobbies Connecticut legislature to pass a copyright statute, the first in the United States. (The Library of Congress, 2010)

4. U.S. Copyright Law

8 Jun 1790

George Washington signs the first copyright bill into law protecting books, maps, and charts for a term of 14 years. Copyright can be renewed for an additional 14 years.

5. Second revision of Copyright Law

8 Jun 1870

President Ulysses S. Grant signs into law provisions that two copies of all copyrighted works be registered and deposited in The Library of Congress thereby a source for assembling the largest repository of works. Materials copyrighted now also include photographs and music.

6. Government Printing Office

12 Jan 1895

President Grover Cleveland signs the Printing Act. This Act centralizes printing of government documents and prohibits copyrighting of government publications.

  • Copyright Office

19 Feb 1897

Separated from the Library of Congress, the Copyright Office is established. A Register of Copyrights position is created.

  • Third revision of copyright law

1 Jul 1901

This revision extends copyright terms to 28 years and broadens copyright materials to "all the writings of an author."

  • Third revision

1 Jul 1909

Broadens subject matter to include all writings of an author. Also extends renewal terms from 14 to 28 years.

7. First of nine acts

19 Sept 1962

Congress enacts nine special acts extending renewal terms on copyrighted works to December 31, 1976. Works that were scheduled to expire between this date and December 31, 1976 were included.

8. Fourth revision

19 Oct 1978

President Ford signs fourth revision of copyright law in 1976 that becomes effective in 1978. Copyright works created on or after this date are now protected for the life of the author plus 50 years after death.

  • Computer Software Act

12 Dec 1980

Computer program is defined and copyright law amended to clarify protection afforded computer software.

9. Sonny Bono Act

15 Jun 1998

Copyright protection is now extended for most works for the life of the author plus 70 years after author's death.

Digital Millennium Act 28

  • Oct 1998

Designed to implement treaties signed at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Geneva conference, highlights include limiting infringement liabilities for ISPs, an exemption for temporary software reproduction in the course of maintenance or repair.

  • TEACH Act

2 Nov 2002

The Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act provides for use of copyrighted works by educational institutions in distance education.

The Rules of Copyright

What rights does Copyright provide and take?

If you hold a copyright then you are entitled to both economic and moral rights. Economic rights encompass acts that only the holder of the copyright can do or authorize others to do. These acts include the right to create copies of the work and/or distribute them, rent or lend it, perform or show it, communicate it to the public (including making it available on the inter-web), or adapt it in any way. Basically these rights prevent another person form financially benefiting from another persons "intellectual property."

Moral rights encompass the rights that do not include a third party gaining financially, but rather the author being harmed financially, and are separate from economical laws. These rights allow the rights to be identified as the author, to have a work that they did not create falsely attributed to them, and to object to the derogatory treatment of the work. These rights allow the author of specific works to be recognized and/or prevent his work from being degraded. Moral rights are rights authors retain in their works regardless who owns the economic rights - they can be given to the author but not afterward sold.

Because of these two sets of laws you cannot do anything with someone else's work without there permission that is not private, or you bought rights to do without having the chance of being prosecuted.

What happens if I violate Copyright Laws?

If you violate copyright laws then the copyright holder or holders who's laws you violate can seek damages by forming a civil lawsuit. Lawsuits are most commonly brought up against the distributors of copyrighted content or people that have produced copies or have profited from reproductions rather than individual users viewing copies that others have provided. Those who are found guilty of infringement of copyright laws may be fined damages as well as for legal fees. Depending on a countries law, there may be a criminal trial and possible jail sentencing or fines.

Pros and Cons of Copyright and Intellectual property

Pros: In Theory

  • Encourage creation of more ideas
  • Protects the Author
  • Gives financial incentive to people who create ideas and art
  • People can be more open about things that they created, because they can protect their ideas and art

Cons: In Practice

  • It benefits Corporations more than individuals; artist, authors, and creators of ideas don't typically hold copyright of their work, the publisher/studies and corporations etc. hold the economic rights
  • It discourages the sharing of ideas for the betterment of mankind and puts a financial value to all ideas and art.
  • Discourages creativity and innovation by commercializing ideas and art such that the marketability of ideas and art is one the primary prerequisites to what is created.
  • People can easily "steal" through things like Pirate Bay...

In theory copyright is good but in reality it is not as good. It results in a less benefit; enjoyment; diverse ideas, art, designs; and people.

Public Domain and Fair Use

Public domain refers to works that are not protected by copyright and are publicly available. They may be used by anyone, anywhere, anytime without permission, license or royalty payment. A work may enter the public domain because the term of copyright protection has expired , because copyright has been abandoned, or in the U.S. because it is a U.S. Government work and there is no other statutory basis for the Government to restrict its access. A work is not in the public domain simply because it does not have a copyright notice. Public Domain is the best for consumers. Examples include the works of Shakespeare and Beethoven.

Fair use is a limitation to the exclusive right granted by copyright law to the author of a creative work. Fair use is a doctrine that permits limited use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission from the rights holders. Examples of fair use include commentary, search engines, criticism, news reporting, research, teaching, parody, library archiving and scholarship.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do you get something copyrighted? Who can hold copyright?

Any person or group can hold a copyright. You can attain a copyright by sending a complete application form, a non-refundable filing fee and a nonreturnable copy of your work to your corresponding government office. If your application is accepted then you will obtain a copyright

2. What works are eligible for copyright protection?

3. Copyright requires an original work of authorship to be fixed in a tangible medium of expression from which it can be perceived either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. Copyright protects the form of expression only and does not extend to the idea or concept underlying the work. These include: literary works such as educational materials and computer programs; musical works, including any accompanying words; dramatic works, including any accompanying music; pictorial, graphic and sculptural works; motion pictures and other audiovisual works; sound recordings; and architectural works.

4. Are there any limitations to copyright protection?

Yes, one limitation is the doctrine of "fair use.” Other limitations include provisions for allowing compulsory licenses, use and copying by libraries, the sale of the work by the owner (See FAQ Section 1.0, Glossary, for definition of the "First Sale Doctrine") and uses which fall outside of the enumerated exclusive rights, such as performances that are not public.

5. How long does copyright last?

The duration of copyright varies according to the work involved. For literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works it is 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the author dies (if there is more than one author it will be 70 years from the death of the last remaining author).For typographical arrangements (i.e. layout or appearance of the printed article), the duration is 25 years from the end of the calendar year in which the work was first published with that layout/appearance.

6. Can facts, or databases be copyrighted?

Facts cannot be copyrighted. However, the creative selection, coordination and arrangement of information and materials forming a database or compilation may be protected by copyright. Note, however, that the copyright protection only extends to the creative aspect, not to the facts contained in the database or compilation.