Copyright Bare Basics

 Copyright Bare Basics
should be required to graduate grade school
by Sue Basko, esq.

Terms to know are in bold.

1. Copyright = the right to copy.  When someone owns the copyright on a work, only they have the right to copy it.  Also, only they have the right to create a derivative work, which is a work that uses elements of the original work.  The copyright owner can license or assign these rights to someone else.

2. Copyright protects creative, original works that are set in tangible form.  If you write song lyrics, record a song, write a poem, story, or screenplay, make a movie or video, make a painting, drawing, photograph or sculpture, these are all examples of some of the things that can have copyright, if they are your own, original creative work.

3. Copyright lasts a long number of years.  After that, the work goes into the public domain and  anyone can copy or use it. 

4. Copyright exists the moment the creative, original work is set into tangible form.  However, to file a copyright lawsuit or be eligible for statutory damages or attorney fees, you must register the work with the U.S. Copyright Office.

5. It costs $35 to register copyright and you can do that online at Be careful to be on the .gov site and not on .com or anywhere else. 

6. There is no such thing as Poor Man's Copyright.  Mailing it to yourself is not proof of anything to the US Copyright Office and has no effect.

7. Notices such as "No Copyright Intended" or "No Copyright Infringement Intended" and others, which are often seen on Youtube, make no sense and have no effect.  But they are sort of charming in their cluelessness.  

8. Copying, which is a violation of Copyright (right to copy) includes such things as downloading a song, copying a rented movie, posting someone else's photograph on your website, recording a song without paying the mechanical royalty to the songwriter, etc.  

9. If you are sued for Copyright infringement and it is willful, you may owe up to $150,000 in statutory damages.  Copyright can also be a criminal charge.

10. Some other violations of Copyright include removing the artist's or author's name from the work (attribution),  trying to pass off someone else's work as your own (passing off), putting the name of an artist or author on something they did not create (reverse passing off), mutilating or harming someone else's work or presenting it in a way the artist or author finds offensive or morally repugnant (violation of artist moral rights), creating a translation or adaptation or different form without permission from the Copyright owner (unauthorized derivative works).