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Last Updated: Sep 4, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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What is Copyright?

Copyright:   The exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute the matter and form of something (as a literary work, musical, or artistic work).

Copyright infringement is the unauthorized use of someone else's copyrighted material. Plagiarism is  when material  protected or not protected by copyright  is used and the author or creator is not given credit. 



Copyright Myths

Below is a listing of common myths (mis-information) about copyright.

1.  If it doesn't have a copyright notice  it is not copyrighted: Once true, but not now. Today Copyright is created once a work is fixed "into a tangible medium." 

2.  If is is not registered, it is not copyrighted:   Not true, but it is a good idea to register because registeration offers extra protections.

3. You can mail yourself a copy of your work, and it will be copyrighted:  Not true. The work needs to be registered to have protection

4. I can copyright a name:   Copyright does not apply to names or short phrases

5. If I wrote it, it isn't an infringement:  writing something (ex: a story based on a novel) or creating it yourself does not authomatically mean it is not an infringment. If you take a picture of a painting, it is a created work called a derivative work and is an infringement.

6. Fair use will protect me:  Fair use is a very narrow exemption under copyright law. Fair Use "strongly favors uses that are transformative, meaning that the copy is a new work, one not designed to replace the original....Fair use will not protect you from a lawsuit, but may protect you from having to pay damages."   PT Plagiarism Today at www.plagiarismtody.

7. If I give credit I don't need permission:  Giving credit does not prevent a charge of copyright infringement. Permission is needed from the owner.

8. I don't need permission because I am going to adapt the work.  Copyright owners have control over modifications made to their work.

9. Since I'm planning to use my work for nonprofit educational purposes, I don't need permission.   Maybe--maybe not;  The key factor here is not the user, but the nature of the material, how it is being used, and whether the new use adversely affects the value of the original.   The Law Offices of Lloyd J. Jassin:   

10. It is legal to copy or distribute a work if you do not copy all of it.   Not true.

11. If a work in on the Internet, it is in the public domain and can be used freely.  No, some works are in the public domian, but not all.   KeyLaw.


Library of Congress copyright for Students


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