Last Updated on April 8, 2016
Copyright laws aren’t easy to understand, especially when they’re quite similar to trademark and patent laws. If you have something that you’ve authored, whether it’s a short story, a piece of art, a photograph or a new song, you have an automatic copyright. As long as something that you’ve created is tangible, it can’t legally be used or taken by any other parties. That doesn’t mean that other people won’t use your work, though. Make sure you have a good understanding of copyright law should you ever need it in the future.
What the Difference Between Copyrights, Trademarks and Patents?
The main difference between copyrights, trademarks and patents is the specific creation that’s being protected:
- A copyright protects any type of authorship. Poems, song lyrics, memoirs and paintings, for example, all fall under copyright law. Basically, anything that’s a physical expression of an idea has a copyright.
- Trademarks protect identifying marks. A company logo, for example, would fall under trademark law.
- Patents protect inventions.
What Does a Copyright Include?
There are three main components of a copyright:
- The copyright owner is the only person with exclusive rights to the work.
- The owner of the copyright is the only person who can distribute the work.
- The owner can, if they want to, allow other people to distribute or sell the work.
What is Copyright Infringement?
When a work that’s been recorded in some physical form, there are several ways that other people can use the work illegally, including:
- Creating derivative materials
- Display the material in a public area
- Distributing copies of the work
- Performing the material in a public setting
- Reproducing the work
- Transmitting the audio of the work digitally
What Does Piracy Mean?
The term “piracy” is a bit old fashioned, but it’s still used by some people today. Piracy refers to the use of a copyrighted work without permission, primarily when the work is used to somehow gain financially. “Video piracy” is a commonly used phrase and it refers to bootleg copies of movies being sold for money.
What is the Process of Copyright Litigation?
Copyright litigation is done on a federal level, not a state level. That means that copyright litigation can only take place in a federal courtroom. First, the owner of the copyright has to show that their work was taken without permission. Then, the copyright owner must prove that they sustained damages of some kind. This is often easy to prove if the person who stole the material also sold it.
Next, the copyright owner has to show that the material that was taken was protected under a copyright. Assuming the defendant does not win the case, they will be directed to stop using the material. They may also be directed to pay damages to the copyright owner.
Does the Defendant Have Any Defense in Copyright Litigation?
Sometimes a defendant may be able to claim that they were operating under “Fair Use,” which is a part of freedom of speech. This means that anybody can reprint a work if they are going to comment on it. As long as the original material is changed or added to in some way, it’s considered a new piece of work.
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