What Is Copyright Infringement?

traverselegal - December 16, 2011 - Copyright Law, What Is Copyright Infringement


Copyright infringement is the copying of the creative works of authorship of another that results in the violation of the rights secured to that author under federal law. These rights, guaranteed by § 106 of the Copyright Act, consist of the right to reproduce, to prepare derivative works, to distribute copies, to perform publicly, to display publicly, or to perform via digital audio transmission the copyrighted work. Copyright protection arises once the work is “fixed in a tangible medium of expression,” and copyright registration provides additional benefits, such as the ability to file a lawsuit in federal court and increased damages awards.

Here are the basic ideas and definitions you need to understand, from the US Copyright office:

Who is a copyright author?

Under the copyright law, the creator of the original expression in a work is its author. The author is also the owner of copyright unless there is a written agreement by which the author assigns the copyright to another person or entity, such as a publisher. In cases of works made for hire, the employer or commissioning party is considered to be the author. See Circular 30Works Made for Hire.

The concept of copyright ‘author’ is often misunderstood because many works have lots of authors. Authors need to be disclosed as part of the copyright registration.  For a piece of software, identifying all the people who worked on the code can be challenging after the fact.  For a painting is often easy.  For a photograph, who was holding the camera or directing the shot? A good copyright paralegal can help you navigate what otherwise appears to be an easy DIY copyright application. 

Copyright Attorney Enrico Schaefer

What is a deposit?

A deposit is usually one copy (if unpublished) or two copies (if published) of the work to be registered for copyright. In certain cases such as works of the visual arts, identifying material such as a photograph may be used instead. See Circular 40aDeposit Requirements for Registration of Claims to Copyright in Visual Arts Material. The deposit is sent with the application and fee and becomes the property of the Library of Congress.

Deposits are another area where laymen and do it yourselfers often need assistance. Depending on what type of work you want to register, the deposit requirements are different.

Copyright Registration Lawyer Enrico Schaefer

What is publication?

Publication has a technical meaning in copyright law. According to the statute, “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.” Generally, publication occurs on the date on which copies of the work are first made available to the public. For further information see Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Publication”.

Publication is lawyers a challenging issue. it seems so obvious. But understanding publication in the internet age is far more difficult. And copyright law has not caught up to technology. If your work is primarily published on the internet, expect a challenge to your burden of proof to prove publication. If you are an influencer, with some works paid endorsement and other Just for fun, understanding where the line might be for publication is critical.

Influencer, Celebrity and Social Media Lawyer

What is a copyright notice? How do I put a copyright notice on my work?

A copyright notice is an identifier placed on copies of the work to inform the world of copyright ownership. The copyright notice generally consists of the symbol or word “copyright (or copr.),” the name of the copyright owner, and the year of first publication, e.g., ©2008 John Doe. While use of a copyright notice was once required as a condition of copyright protection, it is now optional. Use of the notice is the responsibility of the copyright owner and does not require advance permission from, or registration with, the Copyright Office. See Circular 3Copyright Notice, for requirements for works published before March 1, 1989, and for more information on the form and position of the copyright notice.

Biggest mistake people make is removing copyright notices form published works. If you or your webmaster remove a copyright notice, you are setting yourself up for statutory damages for willful infringement.

Complex Copyright Litigation

What is copyright infringement?

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.

If you want to use a photograph, video or text from someone else, you need to obtain a license or permission, preferably in writing.

Copyright Licensing

What is peer-to-peer (P2P) networking?

A type of network where computers communicate directly with each other, rather than through a central server. Often referred to simply as peer-to-peer, or abbreviated P2P, a type of network in which each workstation has equivalent capabilities and responsibilities in contrast to client/server architectures, in which some computers are dedicated to serving the other computers. A “network” is a group of two or more computer systems linked together by various methods. In recent usage, peer-to-peer has come to describe applications in which users can use the Internet to exchange files with each other directly or through a mediating server.

Where is the public domain?

The public domain is not a place. A work of authorship is in the “public domain” if it is no longer under copyright protection or if it failed to meet the requirements for copyright protection. Works in the public domain may be used freely without the permission of the former copyright owner.

People often mistake works – photographs, videos, reproductions of artwork, logos, trademarks – they find through a Google search as available to the public. Public works are a fairly narrow definition of works. Copyrights do not last forever, but do last a very long time.

Copyright Law

What is mandatory deposit?

Copies of all works under copyright protection that have been published in the United States are required to be deposited with the Copyright Office within three months of the date of first publication. See Circular 7dMandatory Deposit of Copies or Phonorecords for the Library of Congress, and the Deposit Regulation 202.19.

What is a work made for hire?

Although the general rule is that the person who creates the work is its author, there is an exception to that principle. The exception is a work made for hire, which is a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment or a work specially ordered or commissioned in certain specified circumstances. When a work qualifies as a work made for hire, the employer, or commissioning party, is considered to be the author. See Circular 30, Works Made for Hire .

Work made for hire agreements are standard in all creative industries. If the person creating the work is not your employee, then you need work for hire agreement to ensure that you remain the copyright owner, and they are limited to the role of author. IF someone is building a website, or you are paying them to write software code, you should have a work for hire agreement in place.

Work For Hire Agreements

What is a Library of Congress number?

The Library of Congress Control Number is assigned by the Library at its discretion to assist librarians in acquiring and cataloging works. For further information, go to the Cataloging in Publication program website at http://www.loc.gov/publish/prepubbooklink.

What is an ISBN number?

The International Standard Book Number is administered by the R.R. Bowker Company. The ISBN is a numerical identifier intended to assist the international community in identifying and ordering certain publications.

If you feel you’ve been the victim of copyright infringement, contact one of our copyright attorney’s today—our internet lawyers are ready to help.

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by attorney Enrico Schaefer, who has more than 20 years of legal experience as a practicing Business, IP, and Technology Law litigation attorney.