What is Copyright, Why Does It Matter and When Can I Copy Something?

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Chapter 1

What is A Copyright?

A copyright is a legal property right one has in photographs, art, books, music, and artistic work. There are six exclusive copyrights and the most famous of which is the right to prevent other people from making a copy of your work without your permission.

Why should people care about copyrights?

Copyrights are important because they help to drive the economy. They help to incentivize artist and photographers. Some of them risk their lives to bring us images from the war zone or document human right atrocities. Look at the founding fathers, wrote copyrights into the Constitution itself. Today Intellectual Property is the state’s second largest export. Copyrights are a really big deal.

If you write a book or create an image, do you own it forever?

If you write a book or take a picture you do not own it forever. You own it for your life plus 70 years, for your eras. Corporations are a flat 100 years.

What happens when photograph copyright expires?

When copyright expire the photograph or the book goes into the public domain. What that means is it’s free for everyone to use.

What if a copy right is not in the public domain?

If a photograph or book or painting is not in the public domain. It’s copyrighted. The general rule is if you didn’t create it you can’t use it. Now there are exceptions. This video for example is going to be licensed under which is called, Creative Commons. That means you can copy it, you can distribute it, you can use it for educational purposes.

You can’t use it for commercial, you got to give attributions, and you can’t change it. Damages for unauthorized use of copyrights can be pretty stiff. Up to $150,000, per infringement. So for example, unwillful infringement of ten images equals $1.5 million dollars.

Is there a way to figure out what is in the public domain?

Figuring out what’s in the public domain is actually a tricky question. Certainly, anything like before 1923, is generally in the public domain, but even then you have to be careful. If I take a modern photograph of the Mona Lisa for example, I have a thin copyright in my picture of that painting. You can’t use my picture; you got to go take your own.

before 1923 in the Public Domain?

Generally, anything before 1923, is going to be in public domain. There are some new ones to that rule. Duke University Press did a good in a book called Bound by Law.

Bound by Law is actually a comic book. If you Google that, you can download a free copy.

Generally, anything before 1923, but keep this in mind. The modern 35MM camera was invented around 1919 that means almost all photographs are copy righted.

How do you know it’s actually copyrighted?

The moment a work of art is created it copyrights, that is the rule. The law wants to protect artist, photographers, and other creative people to make sure they get paid for their work. These copyrights help drive the economy. These artist and photographers help document the world, we want these people to get paid its important.

Additional Resources

Chapter 1 of The Trade Secrets of Intellectual Property

Introduction to Copyrights

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