In the Know – Copyright

©

By Patricia L Johnson

Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution provides the following protection to individuals providing original works of authorship in the form of a copyright, patent or trademark.

“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;” [1]

Protections under the various laws are so wide in scope that I’m only going to address two of the eight copyright provisions [“Literary works” and “Pictorial, graphic and sculptural works”] and not address patents or trademarks at all, other than with the following explanation:

Patents protect inventions and discoveries, while a trademark protects a specific word, phrase, symbol or design of goods or services belonging to one particular party.  Example – First-ClassTM and Forever StampTM are both trademarks of the United States Postal Service.

Copyright protection applies to the following eight items:

 Literary works;

“Literary works” are works, other than audiovisual works, expressed in words,

numbers, or other verbal or numerical symbols or indicia, regardless of the nature

of the material objects, such as books, periodicals, manuscripts, phonorecords,

film, tapes, disks, or cards, in which they are embodied.

  •  Musical works, including any accompanying words;
  •  Dramatic works, including any accompanying music;
  •  Pantomimes and choreographic works;
  •  Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works;

“Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works” include two-dimensional and three dimensional works of fine, graphic, and applied art, photographs, prints and art reproductions, maps, globes, charts, diagrams, models, and technical drawings,including architectural plans.”

  •  Motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
  •  Sound recordings;  and
  •  Architectural works. [2]

Articles you create are protected by copyright laws the moment they are written and printed or copied, the actual rule follows:

“Copyright is secured automatically when the work is created, and a work is “created” when it is fixed in a copy or phonorecord for the first time.  “Copies” are material objects from which a work can be read or visually perceived either directly or with the aid of a machine or device, such as books, manuscripts, sheet music, film, videotape, or microfilm.”

Although the copyright symbol is no longer required under U.S. law, it is advisable to indicate on your original publication the copyright sign ©, year of first publication and author name as follows:

© 2013 John J Doe

U.S. copyright laws also apply to works that are created outside the U.S.  if one of seven conditions is met.  One of the conditions follows:

“The work is first published in the United States or in a foreign nation that, on the date of first publication, is a treaty party.”

“A treaty party is a country of intergovernmental organization other than the United States that is a party to an international agreement.”

What does all this mean to you?  As you can readily tell by wandering around the internet, it means virtually nothing to the majority of individuals.  People are violating copyright laws every day of the week, and simply not realizing they are breaking the law.

Does ownership of a copyrighted book or manuscript give you permission to incorporate that material into your writings?  The answer is a definite ‘no’.  Owning the book simply means that you either purchased the book or it was given to you as a gift.   The author of the book retains copyright ownership until such time as it is transferred to another individual or entity.

If you quickly review this page you’ll see I’ve inserted data from other sources into this article.  You can insert data into your article as long as you have “permission” to do so.   Permission is granted by contacting the copyright holder and requesting permission to add this, this or this to your article.  If the copyright holder grants permission you may insert the material, if they don’t, you cannot because you will be in direct violation of copyright laws.

You may also use any material that is considered in the Public Domain, which would cover any material that was never copyrighted; the copyright has expired, or the material was written before copyright laws were in place.  The Bible is sometimes used as an example of a publication that was written before copyright laws; but certain translations of the Bible do hold a copyright.

The expiration of the copyright varies depending upon what state the material was created in and what state the material will be used in.

Fair Use  

17 U.S.C. 107 deals with the Fair Use of copyright material in particular situations, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research, with the following four factors taken into consideration to determine whether or not a use is “fair” [3]

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Determining what is fair use in any particular instance is not an easy task because there are no specific numbers of words or lines that may be taken from copyrighted material without permission.  The safest course of action to follow is to obtain permission from the copyright owner being using any copyrighted material.

Copyright Registration

The purpose of copyright registration is to provide a public record of the copyright.  The U.S. Copyright office receives more than 600,000 applications for copyright registration each year.

Three things are needed for copyright registration, a completed application, a nonrefundable filing fee and a nonreturnable copy of the work being registered.  Once your application is reviewed by the copyright office you will either receive a certificate of registration or a communication indicating more information is needed and/or a denial of the application along with a letter why it was denied.

Although I’ve written a fair amount on this subject, I’ve barely scratched the surface because of the fact that copyright laws are so complex.

Circular 92 is a 366-page PDF file, published in December of 2011, that outlines the” Copyright Law of the United States and Related Laws Contained in Title 17 of the United States Code”{2}  Any questions you may have on U.S. copyright laws will be answered in this publication.

{1} http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_transcript.html

{2} http://www.copyright.gov/title17/circ92.pdf

{3} http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html#107

© 2013 Patricia L Johnson

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