Most people have at least a foggy idea of what copyright means -- that it provides an exclusive right of works held by the copyright holder.
In more comprehensive language, copyright:
is a legal right created by the law of a country that grants the creator of an original work exclusive rights for its use and distribution. This is usually only for a limited time. The exclusive rights are not absolute but limited by limitations and exceptions to copyright law, including fair use. A major limitation on copyright is that copyright protects only the original expression of ideas, and not the underlying ideas themselves.To summarize, protection from copyright infringement covers:
However, it’s not considered copyright infringement when the underlying themes or ideas of a work is used, nor can facts be copyrighted. So, exploring the themes of a work of fiction is open to anyone regardless of a copyright, so long as the expression of an idea is not plagiarized.
Where does the law draw the line between general ideas and facts versus the distinct expression of a concept? Often, that’s where direct litigation becomes applicable.
Why Infringement Can be Confusing to Determine Nowadays
In 2017, many folks find this topic difficult to ascertain -- whether or not infringement might apply. The reason driving the confusion comes from a three-fold dynamic:
- The law on these matters hasn’t changed much at all throughout the last decade.
- At the same time, technology has clearly changed how we use and interact with content.
- The average person’s understanding of infringement is based largely on hearsay and not in the actual law.
When you throw it all together online, you may notice a mixed bag of partial or complete infringement violations, which may or may not be based on intentional violation. And, the confusion perpetuates itself.
One YouTuber may see how another YouTuber uses an artist’s music and believe that, since someone else is using a song or video in a certain way, he or she too can also do what they like with another person’s material. The website addresses this issue in its Terms of Service.
*Note: Fair use is a condition whereby one party using another party’s material without permission is not considered copyright infringement. Copying an article for educational purposes is one example. The details of fair use deserve to be read in full, which you can do here.
There’s Help Available When Enforcing a Copyright
As mentioned earlier, a good portion of content users crossing the line on infringement don’t even know they’re doing wrong. In many instances, a simple notification will do the job and they’ll stop their use of protected material.
If that fails, a cease-and-desist order will often do the trick.
If the above options don’t work, it may be time to start documenting infringement usage by outside parties. While doing so is well worth the effort, following through on such projects can prove taxing on one’s time and effort.
Those seeking help stand to benefit from software, which simplifies the documentation and case-building process. For more details on how software can help, it’s worth looking at your options.