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What is copyright infringement
What Is Copyright Infringement? The Layperson's Copyright Primer
Copyright laws are constantly changing, and knowing exactly what copyright infringement is, whether you’re creating an eBook, publishing articles, using music as a backtrack to your podcast - or what have you - is essential to selling your online media. Although the laws change from one jurisdiction to another, knowing the basic rules of copyright infringement will ensure you’re following the proper rules of engagement when it comes to creating your works. Before you make any final decisions regarding the use of a work that has been copyrighted, please contact a copyright attorney to ensure you’re following the law – this will keep you from being sued or, even worse, punished in a court of law.
What is Copyright Infringement?
Copyright infringement, as defined by Wikipedia.org, states: “Copyright infringement (or copyright violation) is the unauthorized use of material that is protected by intellectual property rights law particularly the copyright in a manner that violates one of the original copyright owner's exclusive rights, such as the right to reproduce or perform the copyrighted work, or to make derivative works that build upon it. The slang term bootleg (derived from the use of the shank of a boot for the purposes of smuggling) is often used to describe illicitly copied material.”
So, what is copyright infringement in plain English? It means that if you’re not allowed to use something, then don’t use it – plain and simple. It can be very simple to get permission to use a work – many times you’ll be able to use a ‘sample’ of music or excerpt of written work for a nominal fee, or small attribution. However, if you do not have the permission of the copyright holder – whether it’s an author or a publishing house – you can be sued for copyright infringement or worse.
What is Copyright Infringement in America?
In many jurisdictions, such as the United States of America, this act is known as a strict liability crime or tort (a tort is a civil wrong – not a criminal wrong). This means that the person who infringes the copyright - whether intentionally or not - will be responsible for the damage or loss. Also, the prosecutor (in criminal court) or plaintiff (in civil court) must only prove that the act of copying was committed by the defendant – they do not need to prove guilty intent. This means, even if you had no intention of committing copyright fraud or infringement, you can (and in present times, in many cases, WILL) be prosecuted, even if you used the material in good faith.
What is Copyright Infringement in action?
Many cases of copyright infringement are difficult to see to the layperson, because the violation is not limited to exact copying. In many cases, when something is inspired by another thing – such as in music, when the inspiration of one song is used to create an entirely different song – it’s difficult to see where the new product or ‘thing’ has crossed the line to something illegal. Some works aren’t even protected by copyright, such as compilation of facts that lack the creativity necessary to be covered by copyright, or works that are in the public domain because the copyright has expired. Knowing the difference is often very difficult to see, and because of this we’ve seen a number of copyright infringement cases in recent years, especially in tandem with the music industry.
As you can see, copyright infringement is a very difficult, albeit necessary, act to define. However, if you make sure that you’re using works that are in the public domain, or have long since been out of copyright (think Beethoven or Frankenstein) you’ll be safe. Do you fair research, and if you have any questions contact a copyright lawyer and ask ‘what is copyright infringement’ to learn the most up-to-date information for your jurisdiction.
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