Copyright for every day
Copyright is a legal protection that is given to any piece of art or original creation. And it is an essential part of our everyday life. Often we do not even think how many times a day we deal with it, whether it is listening to music or putting a nice picture in your blog post. Today I’m going to share all the basic knowledge you need to have about it to avoid any troubles and violations. You can also learn how to protect your rights and creations online.
Copyright law might sound confusing for some, but it is quite easy to understand. First of all, let’s put the record straight – there is no such thing as international copyright law. Each country deals with it differently, although there are international agreements. But the general understanding of what is copyright and what types of things it protects is the same.
Why should I care about it? You may ask. Well, because you do not want to violate anyone’s rights by not knowing. And if you are a content creator, you need to know how to protect your art.
What is Copyright?
It is the legal protection of any original work. Often people talk about copyrighted pieces of art of specific significance. But in reality, historical or cultural significance plays no role in this. Anything you do, whether it is a song, novel, or even social media content is protected legally.
Basically, it is the exclusive right of the author or creator to copy, post, sell their work. The author can also sell or trade this right as well as give permission to others to use their work. To put it simply – when you create something, a painting, you are the only one who has the right to use it for commercial or any other purposes. But you can also sell the right, or it can be inherited by your relatives.
Do I need to register somewhere to copyright my book or song? This is quite a popular question. No, there is no need to register anything. The copyright law takes effect as soon as you write it. You do not need to put a copyright symbol too. In its nature, it has no power; the work of art is already legally protected. But the copyright symbol can be a reminder to users and viewers about the legal restrictions.
There is no need to follow any procedures. However, some countries allow that. Such registration can be used in a court case as evidence if someone violates the copyright.
What is Protected by the Law?
Now, let’s talk about what is eligible for such protection. Of course, everyone knows now about copyright music, but maybe you haven’t ever thought about details. For example, folk music or old classic tunes might seem like they are already not eligible for protection. Usually, copyright works for 70 years after the death of the author. The exact date can change depending on the country’s legislation. So when you put Mozart music on your YouTube video or website, you might think that it is fine. It has been much longer than 70 years. But when you choose a specific recording, it is made by some musician. And their recording is protected separately from the original creation. The same goes for remixes and arrangements. And if the copyright is still in force for this particular recording, you are violating the rights of this musician.
The creations that are protected include:
- All literary pieces, including books, stories, novels, eBooks, articles, blog posts, and social media posts. Yes, your Instagram posts or blogs are also protected. In case someone is copying part of your text or the whole piece, they are violating the law. Article writing is also eligible for protection, even if people do not always know it.
- Architecture and buildings.
- Any pieces of art, including paintings, drawings, sculptures, and even something as simple as a doodle. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. If you created it – it is already protected.
- Marketing materials and advertising.
- Technical documents and drawings.
- All cinematography pieces, including movies, TV shows, video clips, podcasts, YouTube videos.
- Dancing routines. Yes, the particular dance that is designed by a creator is also eligible for copyright.
- All musical compositions and arrangements. Copyright music also includes concerts, performances, and live recordings.
- Computer code, programs, all software, and hardware.
Now let’s name what is not protected by copyright:
- General facts, meaning basic knowledge.
- Ideas. Unless they have any material presence, they cannot be protected. There is no way to prove that idea came to your mind first unless you bring it to life or document somehow.
- Operational methods.
To sum it up – anything you create with the minimum level of creativity is protected by the law. It can be a picture you post on social media, an article you write, or a remix of a song. You don’t have to put a copyright symbol to show that, although it helps sometimes.
When Can You Use Copyright Creations?
We all use someone else’s work in one way or another. The easiest example is academic papers. Students need to cite other sources to support their arguments or create new researches. And it is perfectly valid – citations are legal. So, for instance, if you want to put a quote in your article – it is completely fine. All you need to do is to credit the author.
There is also a fair use concept. It allows the use of original work without the author’s permission for parody, critique, and reviews. A good example is commentary videos on YouTube. If you are watching a clip about a movie, the creator can use original pieces in their montage as fair use when they critique something. This concept is in YouTube guidelines. Although the amount of original piece used in a review should be adequate and reasonable. If you are putting the whole movie for others to watch – it is a violation of the law.
So when can you use something? Well, if you have the permission of the copyright holder. If the author grants you the right to use their work – you are good to go. Otherwise, it is better to use copyright-free materials. Here are some examples:
- You can put a search filter on Google to find copyright-free images, they are ready to use;
- Several sites offer free images and photos that can be used for many purposes, such as Unsplash;
- YouTube has a catalog of copyright-free music for videos. The authors allow anyone to use it.
Now, I want to answer several often asked questions.
Are copyright symbol and trademark the same thing?
No, copyright protects the originality of the work. Trademark is used to protect inventions and discoveries, as well as marketing materials, such as a logo or brand name.
Can I copyright my book in all countries?
No, it is impossible as the legislation is different. Although all countries recognize such rights, the means of protection are different. For example, in UK legislation, they recognize not only economic but also moral rights.
What can I do if someone copied my post or picture on social media?
You can speak directly to the person and ask them to delete the post. You can also go directly to the social media platform support team. They usually handle such cases pretty fast and well.
What will happen if I use copyright music?
It depends on the way you use it. For starters, your video or post can be deleted or suspended, as well as your account. On YouTube, you can get copyright claims, and all the revenue will go to the holder of the rights. If you copy and sell other’s music, there can be a court case.
What evidence do I need to copyright my book or novel?
Usually, all you need is a file with the creation date to prove that you had it first. All the digital files have such traces automatically.
These are the basics everyone should know about copyright to protect their work and do not violate anyone’s rights. Try to use copyright free materials, always credit the author when citing, and be respectful to other creators.
Vitalii Anufriiev is a co-founder and CEO at WritingMetier. His areas of interest include digital marketing, brand strategy, and the use of social media for business growth.