Additional information regarding copyrights

What is a “copyright”?

Copyright law secures for the creator of a creative effort the exclusive right to control who can make copies, or make works derived from the original work.

What cannot be copyrighted?
  • Works put out by the US Government – Including things like Hubble photos, films, reports, judicial and congressional works.
  • Works in the “Public Domain” – Which includes ALL works created before 1925 (many, but not all, works created prior to 1965 are also in the “public domain”).
Common Misconceptions:
  • “If I don’t charge admission, it’s not a copyright violation.” - FALSE
  • “If it’s posted on the Internet it’s in the public domain.” - FALSE
    • Copyrighted files, music, movies, books, and other works do not lose their copyright just because someone has placed them on the internet. Even if the artist places the work on the internet, the copyright is still in force.
  • “Schools always fall under the ‘Fair Use Exemption.’” - FALSE
    • The “fair use” exemption to (U.S.) copyright law was created to allow things such as commentary, parody, news reporting, research and education about copyrighted works without the permission of the author.
    • “Fair use” only insures that copyright law does not block a teacher’s freedom to comment and express his/her own arguments and ideas – not the right to publicly display other people’s works.
    • “Fair use” is usually a short excerpt and almost always attributed.
    • It should not harm the commercial value of the work, in a sense of people no longer needing to buy the CD or rent the movie.
  • “Copyright infringement isn’t a crime.” - FALSE
    • While copyright law is mostly civil law pursued by the private owners, there are now felony criminal statutes which apply when pirated works are worth over $2,500.
    • Under Congress’s new law, a commercial copyright violation involving more than 10 copies and valued over $2,500 is a federal offense felony.
    • This applies to songs downloaded from P2P networks like Napster and Kaazaa, as well as movies and other works downloaded or copied.
    • The Justice Department, the FBI and the Customs Departments are “fully committed to this law!”
  • “I own the movie, CD, DVD, program, etc., so I can use it.” - FALSE
    • To own a copy of a work (even when you paid for the copy) is not to own the work itself!
    • Even though you may have bought a DVD or CD, you cannot play it at public events.
    • This also applies to movies and DVD’s which you rent at Blockbuster or other rental outlets.
    • A copy does not equal a license.