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The Know Your Rights Blog


Did you know that your work is automatically covered by U.S. copyright law as soon as you set it in a fixed format? According to Title 17 of the US Code, all works are protected under copyright law from the moment they are placed in a fixed, tangible medium and can be perceived either directly (on paper, canvas, or other "solid" medium) or with the aid of a machine or device (computer or e-device, if you will).

What does this mean? Well, essentially, you do not have to register your work with the Copyright Office in order to have some measure of protection. The law exists to help protect content creators and to help "promote innovation" in the community.

That said, you might want to formally register your work, as there are a number of benefits to this process:

-It establishes a public record of the copyright claim.

-If registered within 5 years of creation, it provides "prima facie" evidence of the validity of the copyright and the facts stated in the certificate.

-If registered within 3 months of creation or prior to infringement of the work, it will allow for statutory damages to be awarded to the copyright owner in an infringement suit.

And, perhaps most importantly:

-It allows an infringement suit to be brought forward.

You might be thinking: "Well, can't I just mail my manuscript to myself via the U.S. Postal Service and therefore, as a government agency, I'm covered under copyright law?"

Unfortunately, all that this method will do is prove the date you mailed it to yourself on a certain date. There are no legal benefits to sending a manuscript to yourself in the mail, as the U.S. Postal Service is not an entity of the U.S. Copyright Office.

But don't despair. Not only is the process of registering copyright easy, but it's relatively inexpensive.

For example, for a simple registration (let's say a book, with one author or artist), the fee is just $35 for registering online.

Perhaps the best part? You can do it on your own without a lawyer.

Why not protect your intellectual property?

More information on U.S. Copyright law and the Copyright Office may be found at:

#copyright #copyrightregistration #writing #authors

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  • Writer's pictureMJ

U.S. Copyright law exists to help promote creativity and innovation by providing a framework for protecting a creator's interest in their work so that they might benefit from dissemination of their work to the public. It is a creator's sole right to sell, distribute or create derivatives of their work. Infringement occurs when another party represents or adapts another person's intellectual property as their own without proper permission.

That said, within copyright law exists a statutory framework called Fair Use (in section 107 of the Copyright Act). This provision provides for re-use of materials without permission under certain specific circumstances, particularly in cases of news reporting, criticism, teaching, scholarship and research. The Fair Use doctrine requires the evaluation of four factors in determining whether a particular usage is "fair" or not:

The Purpose and Character of the Use (The main consideration here is whether the use of the existing material is commercial or for education, as well as whether the new work is transformative. This factor is usually weighed along with the other factors below.)

The Nature of the Copyrighted work (How the new work relates to the original. Here, using a more creative work is less likely to enjoy protection under fair use than using a factual item. Further, using unpublished works is less likely to be considered "fair.")

Amount and Substantiality of the Portion Used in Relation to the Whole (Here, courts consider the literal amount of the work taken as well as whether the "heart" of a copyrighted work was taken by the new work.)

Effect of the Use on the Potential Market or Value of the Original (So, whether or not the new work might "take away" sales or perceived value from the original work now or in the future.)

Fair Use cases are heard rather consistently in the courts, and as a result, the U.S. Copyright Office has now created a Fair Use Index. The index provides a convenient way to review case law and help courts (and the public in general) to understand the current thoughts on reuse of material under the Fair Use doctrine. I have also discussed Fair Use in posts here and here.

Of course, rather than relying on Fair Use for new publications, it's always best to seek permission to reuse materials. This way you can be absolutely certain that you are on the right side of copyright law.

Have questions on your manuscript? Set up a consultation with us today to discuss your project!

#fairuse #copyright #copyrightlaw #fourfactors #copyrightweek

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Many people still don't realize that copyright does not need to be formally registered with the US Copyright Office in order to be protected by copyright law. That said, among the benefits to registration is the right to bring forth a suit for infringement, under which the rightsholder may be awarded legal fees and statutory damages.

"This is all well and good," you think, "For large publishers. But what about me, the independent publisher or author? Surely attorney's fees, time, and energy required to pursue such a claim would prove detrimental to my own bottom line. What then?"

Enter the CASE Act, introduced by Rep. Jeffries and Rep. Marino, which proposes the creation of a sort of copyright small claims tribunal (called the Copyright Claims Board) which would review claims of infringement and pass limited judgement on the cases presented. In essence, this review board would function in much of the same way as a suit brought forward in federal court, but from within the US Copyright Office itself.

The benefit? The Copyright Claims Board would hold its hearings with written submissions or electronic hearings, and the claimants would not necessarily need to hire legal counsel to pursue a case.

Although the legislation went no further in this year, the CASE Act's presentation this summer is a positive step toward helping the independent publisher and author a way to enforce their rights in copyrighted materials.

Here's hoping that this is just the beginning of forward progress in copyright law.

#copyright #CASEAct #rights #publisher #author

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