How To Avoid Copyright Infringement

Ten Tips To Avoid Breaking Copyright Laws

Tip One: Understanding Copyright

What is copyright? Copyright by definition is the legal right of the originator to distribute the material however he or she sees fit. Whether it is a painting, a photograph, a poem, or anything else, if you created it, you own it and it is the copyright law itself that assures that ownership.

Tip Two: Rights of the Copyright Holder

To ensure you do not impede on the laws of copyright, you must know what rights the originator has. These include:

  • the right to reproduce the work
  • to prepare derivative works
  • to distribute copies
  • to perform the work
  • and to display the work publicly

Tip Three: Know What Is Not Protected

Copyright law does not protect the core ideas of a work and it does not protect facts. In other words, it cannot prevent you from voicing ideas and facts in your own words, even if you read the information in a book or journal. Despite this, you should always give credit where credit is due. Although it might not break any copyright laws, it could still be considered plagiarism.

Tip Four: Understand Public Domain Laws

"Public domain" just means that the item is uncopyrighted. In the United States, any work created by a federal government official during his or her time in office is public domain, as well as anything published before 1923.

Tip Five: Do Not Trust The Internet

Almost everything you find on the internet is copyrighted. A picture, for example, taken from Google Images has an originator, and therefore, an owner. This means that it is protected by copyright laws.

Tip Six: Assume It Is Protected

In the U.S., it is not mandatory for a work to explicitly say it is copyrighted for it to be protected. It is also unnecessary for copyright to be registered; its purpose is to make compensation in court easier.

Tip Seven: Watch For Allusions

Although it is true that ideas cannot be copyrighted, characters, settings, and story-lines can. This means that fan-fictions and drawings of characters are technically copyright infringements.

Tip Eight: Creativity Is Key

Say, for instance, that you want to take a scene from your favorite show and upload it to tumblr, so you take a screenshot. That screenshot is still owned by that show, no matter how many notes your post gets. However, if you were to take that screenshot and create a painting based on the scene (excluding specific character names and such), it would be your original work and belongs to you.

Tip Nine: Do Not Rely On "Fair Use"

Fair use is basically ensuring that copyright laws do not impede on our freedom of speech as Americans. Some examples of fair use include teachings, critiques, etc. They allow limited quoting of copyrighted material; however, fair use is a complex idea and should not be relied on by anyone who is not a lawyer or intensely familiar with it.

Tip Ten: Don't Stress!

Copyright is usually more of a problem among big companies or widespread advertising. Notice how there is an insane amount of fan-fiction and gifs on the internet. The punishment is often times a slap on the wrist or a "hey, stop that." It is not something the average person has to lose sleep over. Simply be aware of the basic copyright rules and try to avoid breaking them.
Copyright Basics