Here’s some Copyright information laid out in this easy to digest Q&A format. This copyright Q&A is borrowed from the Creative Image Licensing and Management and used with permission.
What exactly is copyright?
A. In the United States, copyright is a form of protection provided by the government to the authors of “original works of authorship, including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works.” This protection is available to both published and unpublished works, regardless of the nationality or domicile of the author. It is unlawful for anyone to violate any of the rights provided by copyright law to the owner of the copyright.
What is Protected by Copyright?
A. Pictorial, graphic, sculptural, motion pictures, sound recordings, architectural works, paintings, computer software, dramatic works, musical works, literary works, pantomimes and choreographic works.
When is Copyright established?
A. Copyright protection begins from the time to work is created in a fixed, tangible form. The work immediately belongs to the creator and no one is allowed to use it without permission.
What can happen if you violate copyright?
A. If you are found to be violating copyrights, the copyright owner or a designated third party has the choice of pursuing legal action for copyright infringement. It would be up to a court of law to make a final ruling on a copyright infringement issue. If the court does find that an infringement has been made they can award damages anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousands of dollars or more per infringement. If it can be proven that the infringement was done willfully (sharing, uploading, etc) then the court can award up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Sharing sites are considered public domain. Can I really get into trouble for downloading or uploading copyrighted material? (This has been taken from the law, copy and pasted to make sure no errors are made).
A. Uploading or downloading works protected by copyright without the authority of the copyright owner is an infringement of the copyright owner’s exclusive rights of reproduction and/or distribution. Anyone found to have infringed a copyrighted work may be liable for statutory damages up to $30,000 for each work infringed and, if willful infringement is proven by the copyright owner, that amount may be increased up to $150,000 for each work infringed. In addition, an infringer of a work may also be liable for the attorney’s fees incurred by the copyright owner to enforce his or her rights.
What is Copyright Infringement?
A. An infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner.
Does the work need to be registered at the US Copyright Office in order to receive protection?
A. No. Copyrights are protected under the US Copyright Law whether they are registered or not. Once a creation is put into tangible form it is automatically protected under copyright law.
What is a Trademark and can I use them?
A. A Trademark protects words, phrases, symbols, or designs identifying the source of the goods or services of one party and distinguishing them from those of others. Think Coca Cola, Disney, Looney Toons, Pepsi, Hershey’s, etc. These companies are protected by Copyright Law and you may not use them without written permission and you must pay each of these companies a very large fee to obtain a license to use their work. If you are using their names or trademarks without payment or permission then you are violating copyrights and can be sued.
Is violating copyrights really considered stealing?
A. First, we should officially define the term stealing and/or theft. Definition of Stealing directly copied and pasted from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stealing: In the criminal law, theft (also known as stealing) is the illegal taking of another person’s property without that person’s freely-given consent. So the answer to this question is simple, Yes. Anytime you take something that belongs to another person, company or entity etc. that did not give you personal express consent to use said material is an act of theft.