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What is Copyright and Copyright Infringement?

In this article we will be covering what is copyright and what copyright infringement is. It is part of a much larger series I will be producing over the following weeks. These articles are not legal advice. They a compilation of research and experience that I have acquired over the years. They will give you a basis of what copyright is, what copyright infringement is, how to protect it and ensure you don’t violate it, as well as what you can do take action if your rights if your intellectual property rights are violated.

If you need information on a specific situation you find yourself in you should always get in touch with a solicitor and seek legal advice before proceeding.

What is Copyright?

Copyright is a legal concept giving the creator of an original piece of work exclusive rights to it for a period of time. The most common right granted by copyright is the right to copy or reproduce the work at will but copyright also grants the copyright holder other rights as well. It gives the copyright holder the right to determine who may adapt the work, perform additional work on that piece of work, who may profit from their work, the right to be credited for their work, among other related rights. It also gives the creator control over whom may publicly display their work and how it is transmitted or displayed.

It is a form of intellectual property that covers any expressible form of idea. Copyright itself does not however cover ideas or information only the way people or companies express these ideas.

The copyright right holder gets exclusive rights to their work. This means they have complete control over all rights to their work. All others must first acquire permission to use or otherwise display the copyrighted work.

Copyright was originally a territorial dealing but not in our current day and age. Copyright has extended to become an international issue. Most countries are now signatories to one or more international copyright agreements.

Copyright may be used to protect a wide range of creative, intellectual or artistic works. However it does not cover an idea itself rather the way in which the idea is expressed or created.

The length of term for copyright varies from country to country however most western countries are parties to the Berne treaty. This treaty sets a set of minimum standard for copyright worldwide regardless of the country of origin of the original work. The minimum length of copyright for most works is 50 years past the death of the works creator. The only real exclusion to this is photographic and cinematography works which is 25 years from the date of creation.

This treaty was put in place to prevent publishers from one country taking an original piece of work from another copying it and distributing it without paying the original publisher for their work. This was because previously you had to register in many different countries to protect your rights. Under the Berne Convention registration is not required anymore with protection now being automatic in all signatory nations.

What is Copyright Infringement?

Simply put, the definition of copyright infringement is any action in which you or another party reproduce, distribute, display, perform or alter any copyrighted work without the copyright holders permission. Copyright infringement can occur even if someone does not copy a work exactly. Making your own changes to someone else’s work does NOT make it yours. Even to make these changes we must first seek permission to do so from the original author or their publisher, who ever is the actual copyright holder.

Just because you can’t find a copyright notice also does not prevent us from violating copyright either. All original works receive automatic copyright protection from the moment they are created. The notion of someone having to carry a copyright notice is incorrect. Unless permission is granted or a notice has been made releasing an authors copyright status that work is always copyrighted.

Always seek permission before using anything someone else has produced. To do anything else may well be copyright infringement.


How to seek Legal Advice on Copyright Issues

Regardless of if the matter is relating to protecting your own copyright status or obtaining permission to use someone else’s work you should also use the services of a solicitor if in any doubt. Any solicitors office should be able to provide you with the services required or will be able to put you in touch with another solicitor that specialising in copyright protection.

There may be a few sites online that are able to provide legal advice on the matter. For example for me this site can provide some legal advice as I am a creator and a student. However response time is up to 5 to 10 working days. Direct contact with a solicitors office would be in most cases be quicker though definitely more expensive.

In the next article we will cover how do we protect our intellectual property online?

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