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It's time to investigate Copyright Law!
What is it? What is it not? Cop E. Wright has read the fine print and uncovered the truth! Read below to discover what her investigations have revealed.
- Does Copyright protect my ideas?
Actually, copyright law does not protect your idea. Instead, copyright protects the tangible expression of your idea or system. Let's say you come up with a new skateboard jumping technique, and you write a book about the trick. The copyright of your book will prevent other people from publishing the text and illustrations describing the technique. But it will not give you any rights to prevent others from using your new jump.
- I found old photos in my garage. Do I own the copyright?
Probably not. You can register copyright in the pictures only if you own the rights to the work, for example, by will or by inheritance. Copyright is the right of the creator of the work or the creator's heirs, not of the person who found or possesses the photos.
- If it's on the Internet can I use it?
Copyright protects text and pictures on websites just like books, CDs, DVDs, and works in other media are protected. You might not see a copyright notice on a website, but "that doesn't mean you're free" to copy what you see or hear.
- Is it ok to use up to 5% of someone else's work?
Under certain circumstances, "fair use" allows you to use parts of someone else's work. There's no magic formula, though. Scholarly criticism, teaching, and news reporting may be valid reasons for reproducing a copyrighted work. A number of other factors also need to be considered. (See Fair Use). When in doubt, it's always a good idea to ask the copyright owner for permission first.
- Can anyone ever use my work without my permission?
It's always best for people to ask your permission first, but under certain circumstances (See Fair Use), it's ok for other people to use parts of your work. Usually, parody, scholarly criticism, teaching, and news reporting may be valid reasons for using a small portion of your work.
- Do I have to register my copyright to secure protection?
Copyright protection actually begins at the moment the work is created on paper, recorded, or otherwise made permanent. However, for certain types of works, registration may be a good idea because you get certain additional benefits. Registration establishes a public record, which is necessary if you need to sue someone in court for infringement. If you win your case, you may also be eligible for statutory damages and attorney's fees.