Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Copyright Explained

I have been blogging for sometime now and have come across many interesting articles. I know that copyright laws forbid me from using any of them but yet I have seen many blogs and sites posting exactly the same articles. Is there a loop hole in somewhere?

Not wanting to break any copyright laws, I read up further and uncovered several interesting facts.

“Copyright is a set of exclusive rights regulating the use of a particular expression of an idea or information. At its most general, it is literally "the right to copy" an original creation.”

“If I don’t see a copyright notice, it means I am free to use them.”
No. This is the most common misconception and I myself thought so too. Base on Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic, every new work created will automatically be copyrighted, even if you there is no copyright notice. The Berne Convention is the de facto standard of Intellectual Property and many countries have adopted it. You can check if your country is included here.

“How much of someone else's work can I use without getting permission?”
Under the fair use doctrine of the U.S. copyright statute, it is permissible to use limited portions of a work including quotes, for purposes such as commentary, criticism, news reporting, and scholarly reports. There are no legal rules permitting the use of a specific number of words, a certain number of musical notes, or percentage of a work. Whether a particular use qualifies as fair use depends on all the circumstances.

“Can I change someone else’s work and claim it as my own?”
No. Only the owner of copyright in a work has the right to prepare, or to authorize someone else to create, a new version of that work. Accordingly, you cannot claim copyright to another's work, no matter how much you change it, unless you have the owner's consent. See Circular 14, Copyright Registration for Derivative Works.

“Emails sent to me are mine and I am free to use them."
Wrong. The email that you receive is intended for you only and not to the general public. If you receive stock reports like I do, there will always be a copyright notice at the end of the email. With that said, I do not think that anyone will be crazy enough to sue you if you were to forward or post an ordinary email message of no commercial value.

The information is from the United States Copyright Office and is generally free to publish.

Further Reading: 10 Big Myths about copyright explained, What is Copyright protection?

There will be many other questions like “I’ll be fine if I give credit to the author”, “I’m not charging anyone for the article”, “The internet is free, hence everything in it” etc, but as a general rule of thumb, always assume that everything is copyrighted unless stated. If you are still unsure on what is allowed and what is not, ask the author or publisher.

Recommended: Email Promos Exposed.