by Yana A. St. Clair, Esq.
We’ve all heard the term copyright, and while it is legal jargon, in today’s world, it literally affects all of us, on a daily basis.
When you think of the concept of copyright and copyright infringement, what immediately comes to mind may be the misuse of a published book or periodical, or quite often a recorded song or musical performance. However, nowadays copyright violations are much more widespread than ever, largely due to most people’s ignorance of the law, and the fact that a simple post to social media, could get you in serious legal trouble.
But again, what is copyright? According to the U.S. Copyright Office’s website: “Copyright is a type of intellectual property that protects original works of authorship as soon as an author fixes the work in a tangible form of expression.”
But OK, what does that mean? Essentially, any type of work, whether it be visual, such as a painting, sketch or photograph; or written, like a book, blog or poem; or audio, be it a song, podcast, or any type of sound recording, and many more, would fall within the purview of copyright protection.
So, how do you obtain a copyright to an original work, and how exactly does that occur? Well, here is where it gets a little fuzzier, and where you can get into trouble if you don’t do your homework. We’ve all seen the little copyright logos, or trademark but that’s for a different article, and many of us may assume that if some work or publication does not boast such an affixed symbol it is not copyright protected, but that could not be further from the truth. Fact of the matter is, as perfectly explained by the U.S. Copyright Office: “Everyone is a copyright owner. Once you create an original work and fix it, like taking a photograph, writing a poem or blog, or recording a new song, you are the author and the owner.”
But now that you know you’re entitled to copyright protection, what precisely does that offer you?
Well, U.S. copyright law provides copyright owners with the following exclusive rights:
- Reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords
- Prepare derivative works based upon the work
- Distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership or by rental, lease, or lending
- Perform the work publicly if it is a literary, musical, dramatic, or choreographic work; a pantomime; or a motion picture or other audiovisual work
- Display the work publicly if it is a literary, musical, dramatic, or choreographic work; a pantomime; or a pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work. This right also applies to the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work
- Perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission if the work is a sound recording
Copyright also provides the owner of copyright the right to authorize others to exercise these exclusive rights, subject to certain statutory limitations.
So, now that we have had an introduction to copyright law, next time we will go deeper into how all of us are affected by the potential threat of copyright infringement every time we post a photo on social media that we didn’t take, or how in turn we can protect ourselves from someone else using an original work of ours, just to name an example.
But until then, when posting online, the safest way to go is to always post original content, whether it be a photo, a comment, a sound clip, or an opinion…
Disclosure: Please note that none of the information contained within the above column is to be considered legal advice.
Yana is an American attorney licensed to practice in all State and Federal courts of California. Yana holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science specializing in International Relations from UCLA, the Degree of Juris Doctor from Loyola Law School, and a Master of Business Administration Degree from Ashford University. Since the beginning of her undergraduate studies, Yana has been involved in various aspects of the field of Electrical Engineering, where she employs her business and legal knowledge to consulting and advising businesses and individuals on relevant topics of concern. Yana also serves as Editor for PACWorld magazine, having been with the publication since its inception. As an attorney, Yana specializes in criminal defense, where she devotes her talents and expertise to fighting for her clients’ rights and freedom.