A crash course in copyright law, part 2

A crash course in copyright law, part 2

Want to learn more about copyright law?

Lonely Writer Cheat Sheet Copyright Fair Use copyright law

Lonely Writer Cheat Sheet Copyright Fair Use

How about infringement?

We are artists and that means we are copyright holders, even if we never assert our rights and never file with the copyright office. According to American copyright law, you own it if you made it. You don’t have to mail it yourself.

Infringement

However, I am only going to talk about American law. If you are asserting copyright in another country, the law will most likely differ. Furthermore, if you have any questions, ask me in the comments section. I will try to research and answer you in a timely fashion. Or ask a copyright attorney. This area, like many areas of the law, has nuances and there can be changes. This blog is no substitute for good advice from an experienced lawyer. If you think you need to protect your rights, then do so properly. And that means hiring an attorney.

The United States Code

According to Title 17 of the United States Code:

§ 501. Infringement of copyright

(a) Anyone who violates any of the exclusive rights of the copyright owner as provided by sections 106 through 122 or of the author as provided in section 106A(a), or who imports copies or phonorecords into the United States in violation of section 602, is an infringer of the copyright or right of the author, as the case may be. For purposes of this chapter (other than section 506), any reference to copyright shall be deemed to include the rights conferred by section 106A(a).

As used in this subsection, the term “anyone” includes any State, any instrumentality of a State, and any officer or employee of a State or instrumentality of a State acting in his or her official capacity. Any State, and any such instrumentality, officer, or employee, shall be subject to the provisions of this title in the same manner and to the same extent as any nongovernmental entity.

But what the heck does that all mean?

The American Bar Association explains it better. It publishes a Young Lawyers series intended to help newly minted lawyers understand the nuances of complicated sections of practice. So the ABA explains:

An action for copyright infringement may arise where a third party violates one or more of the exclusive rights granted to copyright owners.  To establish infringement, the plaintiff must prove:  “(1) ownership of a valid copyright, and (2) copying of constituent elements of the work that are original.”

Ownership of a valid copyright consists of:  “(1) originality in the author; (2) copyrightability of the subject matter; (3) a national point of attachment of the work, such as to permit a claim of copyright; (4) compliance with applicable statutory formalities; and (5) (if the plaintiff is not the author) a transfer of rights or other relationship between the author and the plaintiff so as to constitute the plaintiff as the valid copyright claimant.”  A copyright registration certificate from the Copyright Office serves as prima facie evidence of elements (1) through (4).  If the defendant rebuts the plaintiff’s prima facie evidence, then the above elements of valid copyright ownership become essential to the plaintiff’s case.

What the ABA is saying is, registration with the US Copyright office isn’t necessary to successfully bring an infringement claim. But it’s awfully helpful.

If you think your work might be infringed upon, if you feel it is a danger and you are concerned about it, then get some peace of mind and register it with the US Copyright Office.