The copyright laws protect any work that is written, typed, etc. In fact, almost anything that one can experience via their senses and not created by themselves could be protected by copyright.
Naturally, infringing copyright is not only illegal but also extremely common, especially nowadays, in the Online Age that we’re living in. Without even knowing it, a single social media post could get us in serious trouble.
Luckily, there are more than enough law firms that can teach us more about copyright infringement and how to properly avoid it, especially if we are media creators in the online environment. Firms, such as Richard G. Burt, who are experienced in copyright law, can come in really handy when someone’s being sued concerning copyright.
The Copyright Act
The main act that governs the laws against copyright infringement is the U.S. Copyright Act of 1970. This act protects all kinds of creative works from anything that can be labeled as unauthorized use – including, but not limited to, distribution, publication, copying, etc.
Also, it’s worth mentioning that the act covers both intentional and unintentional infringement. This means that one must really pay attention when using creative works that are not theirs – for any purpose whatsoever.
How Does One Infringe Copyright?
Most people don’t actually know what is classified as copyright infringement. As a result, many of those that get sued because of it, have no idea what they did wrong in the first place. Let’s look at a couple of situations that could end up in a copyright infringement trial:
- Recording a movie theater premiere or pretty much any movie.
- Posting a video on your personal website that contains copyrighted audio, etc.
- Using visual items on your personal website that are protected by copyright.
- Using songs on your personal website, without having the approval of the band or artist that produced them.
- Altering a visual item or creative work and then posting it on your personal website.
- Creating and selling items or merchandise featuring copyrighted content.
- Downloading video and audio, without paying for it, for personal or commercial use.
- Copying or reproducing creative works, without being approved by the copyright holder.
Naturally, these are not the only possible instances of copyright infringement. Something as minor as doodling a copyrighted logo on your t-shirt and selling it could be seen as an infringement.
How to Avoid Infringing Copyright?
As you can see, copyright infringement is one copy-paste command away. The results of such an action can not only cost you a lot of money, but also your online brand reputation – if you’re a company or business.
Many artists have retaliated against corporations using their works, without permission. Naturally, due to the copyright laws, the artists won.
- Understanding how copyright laws work – the mistake most people make is that they confuse copyright with things like licenses and patents. However, the latter is not that easy to infringe. Simple copyright is the easiest to violate and, to avoid doing so, one should read the copyright act in its entirety.
- Avoiding using anything that is not your original work – you can freely make use of any copyrighted work, but only after you get the written or express permission of its original creator. If you don’t have such permission, follow the golden common-sense rule – if it’s not yours, don’t use it.
- Knowing that everything on the Internet is copyrighted – well, almost everything! But the truth is that almost every creative work, currently available on the world wide web, is copyrighted, and making use of it without permission, infringes the copyright laws. Naturally, it doesn’t matter if you benefit from infringing copyright while doing online work. Actually, if you make money using a copyrighted work, you risk having to pay more in fines, including paying back what you earned to the rightful creator of the creative work.
- Keeping in mind the fair use particularity – there’s also something known as “fair use” that, to some extent, gives you the ability to alter a copyrighted work. However, that is only up to a point, where it is then considered to be a new, improved, or changed work. However, even in this case, you still must give credit to the original creator.
With a bit of common sense and due diligence, avoiding copyright infringement is easy enough. Nowadays, the best, and safest way, to keep yourself in the clear is to give credit where credit is due.
If you credit the original creator, then you’ve done your fair share in respecting the copyright laws that protect creative works.
The Consequences of Copyright Infringement
Even if infringing copyright sounds like a harmless act, one could say goodbye to their life savings if they upset the wrong person. Why?
Well, it’s mainly because it is widely believed that infringing copyright damages the creative work and, besides that, causes the original creator to lose potential profit.
As such, when copyright infringement is committed, one can round up civil penalties of almost $200k. However, this is usually applied to intentional infringement. Unintentional infringement, on the other hand, rounds up damages of up to $30k.
Last, but not least, exceptional infringement cases can result in severe $250k fines and around 5 years in jail – these are known as criminal penalties.
The Bottom Line
Copyright infringement is a serious offense – and mainly affects the creator. Pirating music, for example, costs artists millions of dollars in revenue losses. Even though such acts might actually make a creator more popular, this still doesn’t change the fact that they are illegal and, in most cases, punishable accordingly.
But, as mentioned above, common sense will almost always help you make the right decision when sharing or copying something. You might not get punished for infringing copyright, but an online community, for example, will certainly scold you and hold you accountable for engaging in such acts.
So, overall, stick to the golden rule – if it’s not yours, don’t use it; but if you do, credit the creator!