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Entries in copyright (2)

Wednesday
Dec032014

How Can Copyright Protect Your Work?

We are very pleased to offer the second of a 2 part blog post from Barbara Ingrassia, Copyright Manager extraordinaire, for Our Little Books Guest Post Wednesday. The first part dealt with what you can do with other peoples' work and this second part is devoted to how you can protect your own work. Remember, knowledge is power!

In the previous post, I discussed how you can comply with copyright law as a consumer of 3rd party copyrighted works.  In this post, I’ll discuss how you as a CREATOR can protect your original creative work.

Imagine, you’ve put your time and energy into this new work. You’ve cleared the rights for 3rd party works, as appropriate, and provided attribution for quotations, ideas, etc. You CREATED a new work. Now, how do you protect your investment?

First of all, you have to understand that copyright does not protect ideas, but the expression of original, creative ideas. So, at the moment an original creative work is fixed in a tangible medium of expression (i.e., down on paper), it is protected by copyright (including print, audio, video, digital).

While it is not required that you include a copyright notice (© Year. Name. All Rights Reserved) in order to establish copyright, I highly recommend that you do. Place it on the title page, home page, at the end of a post, on the label, meaning in a conspicuous location. This is a very simple step, but very important. Why? It signals users that:

  1. the work is copyright-protected
  2. when it was copyrighted
  3. who is the copyright owner, and
  4. what rights are available to the user

Then there is no excuse for a user to claim that they didn’t know that the work was copyrighted. You might also include your contact information (typically email address) to make it easy for users to request permission to use the work.

Consider taking an additional step to increase the protection: register the copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. Again, it’s not required, but there are advantages:

  1. Establishes a public record (searchable online)
  2. Allows the filing of an infringement suit
  3. Makes statutory damages and attorney’s fees available to the copyright owner, and
  4. Allows registration with the U.S. Customs Service to protect against the importation of unauthorized copies. 

It is not expensive to register and you can complete the forms online. There are very helpful tutorials and FAQs to help you complete the forms; in most cases you do not need an attorney to complete the submission process. To register a work go to: http://copyright.gov/ The date your file is complete will be the effective date of the copyright, if granted. Understand that the Copyright Office will not monitor use of your content; that is your responsibility. Search the Internet regularly for use of key, unique phrases from your work, as well as your name.

In the past, many authors have (sometimes unknowingly) transferred all of their rights to another party—usually a publisher. If you are working with a publisher, think about what uses you would like to make of your work, and negotiate to retain those rights. A signed license/transfer agreement trumps copyright law. In your excitement to be published, don’t simply sign the form presented to you. Today, thanks in part to the rise of self-publishing on the Internet, many authors are able to retain their copyrights. (Note from Our Little Books: we support our authors and never take their copyright. Listen to Barbara's advice...check your agreements before signing!)

One last point: when you are planning a joint project, create and sign a written agreement clarifying who will own the copyright. This is particularly important if volunteers, interns, contractors (illustrators, photographers, graphic artists, etc.), or employers may be involved. Don’t just assume that you will own the original creative work of others who contribute to the project. Yes, copyright in the digital age can seem complicated and murky, but you can learn to manage copyright so it doesn’t manage you.

Barbara Ingrassia is a Certified Copyright Manager who provides one-on-one consultations, workshops, and seminars on all issues copyright. To engage Barbara for an audit of your website for copyright issues or for more information about copyright, request the free 16 Page report 10 Biggest Copyright Mistakes Small Business Owners Make AND How to Avoid Them! by sending an email to barb@managecopyright.com with the subject line CREPORT. Manage copyright. Don’t let it manage You!℠

(Information provided here should not be construed as legal advice.)

The content of this post is © 2014 Barbara C. Ingrassia All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday
Nov262014

Why Do I Have to be Concerned with Copyright?

We are very pleased to offer a 2 part blog post from Barbara Ingrassia, Copyright Manager extraordinaire, for Our Little Books Guest Post Wednesday. You may think Copyright is a boring subject, but it is a subject that can be VERY expensive for you in today's copy and paste digital world and one where ignorance will be no excuse. This first part will deal with what you can do with other peoples' work and the second part will be devoted to how you can protect your own work. You need to be aware!

One aspect of writing that can be confusing or overlooked is the role of copyright in all that material floating around in the cyberworld. The Internet has opened access to so many wonderful resources that it becomes so easy to search/copy/paste/send without considering that someone probably owns the rights to that content. However, using 3rd party content without permission from its rightful owner can result in expensive litigation, huge monetary damage awards, and a compromised reputation. Unfortunately, copyright law (the right to make a copy) is complex and often confusing; there are no easy answers. Every proposed use is “unique” and dependent on the facts and details of the situation. “IT DEPENDS” is the safest fast answer when you use someone's work. Here are some guidelines for wading through the gray murky ooze that is copyright in the digital age.

The easiest thought for you to have when you want to repost or use someone else's work is to assume that content is copyright-protected until you can determine otherwise. Copyright protection applies to “original creative content at the moment it is fixed in a tangible medium of expression,” including documents, articles, books, white papers, letters, websites, blogposts, email messages, inter-office memos, social media posts, photos, charts, illustrations, cartoons, musical and dramatic compositions, recorded audio, video and even notes scrawled on a paper napkin. Once something is created onto something (i.e., not verbal), it becomes the author's copyright.

We are taught to look for a notice of copyright, typically a © with a date, name, and All Rights Reserved after something written. However, since 1989 in the U.S., a notice of copyright (that © you see) is not required to establish copyright, so its absence is not a reliable indication of a work’s status. So, if you don't see that ©, it does not automatically mean you can use content without permission. In fact, the rules of copyright in the U.S. have varied so much over the past 200 years that a chart has been developed to try to sort it all out: http://librarycopyright.net/resources/digitalslider or http://copyright.cornell.edu/resources/docs/copyright2014.pdf

How about on the internet, out there in cyberspace? Content is so easily accessible, therefore it must be free to use, and how would anyone know if you used something anyway? Unfortunately, that mindset is the easiest way to get yourself in trouble. Being on the internet does not change the copyright rules. If you see something written, recorded, or played whether or not it is on the internet or printed in a book, if the content would be copyrighted in the print/analog world, it is copyrighted in the online/digital world. Just because you CAN copy and paste, doesn’t mean you should.

Plagiarism and copyright infringement are easily confused—and not mutually exclusive. Providing attribution (listing where the quote came from) to the source of 3rd party content is essential, but it is not the same as “permission to use.” IT DEPENDS…on the Who, What, When, Where, Why of a proposed use. Providing attribution protects you from charges of plagiarism (theft), but the specifics of the use can still be copyright infringement. Regardless of the copyright status, lack of attribution is plagiarism. You want to guard against both.

There are some exceptions. For example, content created by employees of the U.S. government in the course of their employment responsibilities are in the public domain—not protected by copyright. These can be great sources of content. While content on a .gov website is in the public domain, some content may have been licensed by the government for inclusion on a .gov site. Once again, don’t assume; look for “terms and conditions of use.” These days, .gov sites are pretty good about indicating if some content on a site is not in the public domain. (Note: this applies only to works of the U.S. government; it does not include all works of state and municipal governments. Once again, IT DEPENDS!)

There is also a third copyright area. Between being © and being in the Public Domain, are works that have been licensed by the copyright owner under a Creative Commons license. The copyright owner (frequently the author of the work) designates that under specific conditions, a prospective user does not have to seek permission to use the content. Types of content available may include images, music, video, or media. However, in all cases, proper attribution must be given. SEE: http://Search.creativecommons.org

But there is good news. You CAN manage copyright so it doesn’t manage you. To learn more about what is and is not protected by copyright, see Copyright Basics—a circular from the U. S. Copyright Office http://copyright.gov/circs/circ01.pdf. However, the best rule of thumb: if in doubt - check it out, link to it, carefully summarize it in your own words, use bullets, seek permission from the copyright owner, or use something else.

Stay tuned for next week's post where I will discuss how you can protect your own content!

Barbara Ingrassia is a Certified Copyright Manager who provides one-on-one consultations, workshops, and seminars on all issues copyright. To engage Barbara for an audit of your website for copyright issues or for more information about copyright, request the free 16 Page report 10 Biggest Copyright Mistakes Small Business Owners Make AND How to Avoid Them! by sending an email to barb@managecopyright.com with the subject line CREPORT. Manage copyright. Don’t let it manage You!℠

The content of this post is © 2014 Barbara C. Ingrassia All Rights Reserved.