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  • Writer's pictureMJ

Copyright Isn't My Problem...

Updated: Jul 27, 2020

We've mentioned before that copyright vests in the content creator as soon as a new work is placed in a fixed format (whether print, online, or recorded; it really doesn't matter).

Copyright holders, when they feel that their work has been infringed, can sue for damages (which may be awarded as fines or even jail time), but this is only enforceable in the courts when the copyright holder has registered their work with the Copyright Office.

Accusations of infringement are seemingly everywhere. Louis Menand wrote in the New Yorker last October a brilliant review of not just the history and philosophy of copyright law, but a decent overview of some of the current issues in courts.

One item in the article would be interesting to most people: the latest suit over the copyright of the ubiquitous song "Happy Birthday To You." The melody to the song was originally composed by two sisters as "Good Morning to You" in the 1880s or 1890s, but the author of the words then applied to the song we sing to our loved ones annually has never been conclusively decided. But people keep trying to claim copyright.

Does this mean that you, person on the street, will have to pay a royalty each time you sing this song, whether it is to your adorable son on his 2nd birthday or your 90-year old Meemaw? No, according to the final settlement issued on June 30, 2016 (see this article on Law360).

We are not saying that there is a future out there where anyone could be sued for infringement because they are singing a tune that has been popular for more than 100 years, but these issues point out that the proper licensing of copyrighted material is something everyone should be concerned with. As more and more websites and electronic media are created and delivered to people at lightning-fast speed each day, the probability that copyrighted material is shared improperly becomes more of a possibility. This in turn makes it more difficult for rightsholders to protect their work.

It is important for everyone--not simply authors, artists and publishers--to understand copyright and how intellectual property can be properly shared. This is where GPC comes in. Let us help you learn more!

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