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Definition of Online Copyright Materials

  • Published: 2009-05-01 (Revised/Updated 2010-01-14) : Author: Disabled World
  • Synopsis: The use of copyrighted materials that are available on the Internet requires a certain amount of understanding and awareness.

Main Document

The use of copyrighted materials that are available on the Internet requires a certain amount of understanding and awareness related to a number of things. Knowing the definitions of some different terms can help people to use materials they find on the Internet, as well as how to use the items they are interested in.

Online Copyright

The use of copyrighted materials that are available on the Internet requires a certain amount of understanding and awareness related to a number of things. Knowing the definitions of some different terms can help people to use materials they find on the Internet, as well as how to use the items they are interested in. The concept of, 'Fair Use,' is one that makes sure authors of written materials collect their dues and acknowledgment, while laws that help to avoid infringement help to protect these same authors. The public domain is available to everyone desiring written and additional materials. To begin understanding online copyrighted materials, some definition of terms used is helpful.

Copyrighted Materials Definitions

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is, "An international organization dedicated to promoting the use and protection of works of the human spirit." WIPO defines copyright as, "a legal term describing rights given to creators for their literary and artistic works." WIPO has outlined a framework of basic rights associated with creators allowing them to control and receive compensation for the various ways the items they have created are used. You can learn more about WIPO's mandate on their page: Copyright and Related Rights.

At the bottom of many websites and articles on the Internet is a symbol that appears as the letter, 'c,' with a circle around it, often followed by the year, the author's name, the word, 'copyright, or additional copyright information. These pieces of information comprise a copyright notice identifier and are placed on copies of work in order to inform the world of the work's copyright ownership.Use of a copyright notice was something that was originally required for copyright protection; it is now optional. Using a copyright notice is the responsibility of the copyright owner; it does not require advance permission from or registration with the Copyright Office.

There are various categories of materials that are not commonly eligible for federal copyright protection. For example, titles, short phrases, names, familiar symbols, designs, slogans, variations of typographic ornamentation, coloring or lettering, or plain listings of contents or ingredients are not. Items that consist entirely of information that is common property, containing no original authorship such as height and weight charts, tape measures, calendars, tables or lists from public documents or other kinds of common sources are not as well. Methods, ideas, procedures, processes, systems, principles,concepts, or devices; distinguished from a description, illustration or explanation are not either. Works that include items which have been fixed in a tangible form, such as improvisational speeches or performances that have not been recorded or written, or choreographic works that have not been recorded or notated, are not eligible for federal copyright protection.

An author, according to copyright law, is the creator of an original expression in a work. The author is also the owner of the copyright unless they have entered into a written agreement assigning the copyright to someone else, or an entity like a publisher. Although the general rule is that the person who has created the work is the author, there is an exception. When the work is created by an employee during the performance of their employment, or a person has created a work that has been either commissioned or specially ordered in specified circumstances, their employer or commissioning party is considered to be the author.

According to a statute under copyright law, "Publication is the distribution of copies or phonorecords of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending. The offering to distribute copies or phonorecords to a group of persons for purposes of further distribution, public performance, or public display constitutes publication. A public performance or display of a work does not of itself constitute publication." In general, publication is something that happens the moment something becomes available to the public.

Use of Copyrighted Materials

If there is a copyrighted piece of work that you would like to use it is always wise to ask the author's permission to use it first; they may say, 'yes.' The Copyright Management Center website of Indiana University has information on How to secure permission to use copyrighted material. You can also read more about getting permission to use an author's copyrighted work there.

If the author is willing to give you permission to use their work, ask them to give you that permission in writing. You can also contact a licensing organization; there are organizations of these types listed here: Copyright Internet Resources page.

As of the year 2009 it no longer matters if a book is out-of-print; you still do not have the automatic right to copy it if the copyright has not expired. The author has the right to not distribute their work.

Fair Use

The concept of, 'Fair Use,' is one that is semi-defined. According to a statement by the U.S. Copyright Office, "The distinction between fair use and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined.There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission." Fair Use. Fair use gives permission to educators in, "educational institutions at all levels," such as elementary schools, high school, and universities, to both make copies and distribute them to students in their classrooms. Even with this permission, there are still guidelines and limitations that must be followed by the educator involved. Reproduction of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians. Fair use also give permission to the media, such as newspapers and other forms of publications, to publish photographs for example, as long as credit and product information is given to the artist.

The Public Domain

There are many articles and additional works that are available for everyone to use without concern over copyright laws. These items are available through the Public Domain. The public domain is not a place, it involves works that are no longer copyright protected, or works that have failed to meet the requirements for copyright protection. You can use anything in the public domain without permission from the former copyright owner.

Copyright Infringement

The United States Copyright Office, in relation to copyright infringement, has stated, "As a general matter, copyright infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced,distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner." One of the rights that authors of copyrighted materials have is the right to authorize others to reproduce their works. One of the limitations to this right is fair use. Author's rights are also limited under sections 107 and 108 of the Copyright Act title17, U. S. Code.

There is a list of purposes in section 107 of the Copyright Act stating various purposes for which reproduction of works may be considered,'fair.' The section also presents four factors for consideration in determining whether or not use of a work is fair; these factors include:

The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

The nature of the copyrighted work;

Amount and substantially of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole

The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Copyright protections covers the particular way in which an author has expressed themselves. Copyright protections do not extend to any systems, ideas, or factual information conveyed in the author's work. Persons who are found guilty of copyright infringement could face penalties that include a court order to stop them from producing the item, confiscation of the item, orders to pay the owner of the copyrighted material any profit they have received or would have received, as well as any attorney fees the author has accumulated.

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