The United States Copyright Office (USCO) dictates copyright infringement. That office states that under the copyright laws of the United States the creator of the original expression in a work that is fixed in any tangible medium of expression is its author. The author is also the owner of copyright unless there is a written agreement by which the author assigns the copyright to another person or entity, such as a publisher. In cases of works made for hire, the employer or commissioning party is considered to be the author.

A copyright notice identifies copies of the work to inform the public of copyright ownership. It usually consists of the word “copyright,” (or ©) the name of the owner and the year of publication. Use of the notice is the responsibility of the owner and does not require registration with the Copyright Office.

Copyright infringement occurs when another party uses a copyrighted work and uses it for derivative work similar to the copyright, distributes, publicly performs, or publicly displays the piece without permission from the copyright owner. There are several advantages to registering your copyright. It will enable you to sue copyright infringers in federal court. More importantly, if your copyright registration is made within 3 months of publication of the work or any time prior to an infringement of the work, you are able to seek statutory damages and attorney’s fees. Without the registration, you can only recover actual damages and profits that the federal court can determine you’ve lost, which are often not easy to prove. However, there are some exceptions to the rule. First, if a work is for hire, meaning if it is a condition of employment, the employer is the owner of that copyright. Second, if a work is in the “public domain,” meaning if it is not given copyright protection under the copyright laws of the United States, an outside party may legally use it without the permission of the owner.

When registering with the Copyright Office, they issue a Certificate of Registration. Courts of Law view these Certificates of Registration as self-evident unless proven otherwise. Copyright law specifically protects written pieces, videos, pictures, movies, and blogs.

When infringement occurs, and the primary parties cannot come to an agreement, the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) may make determinations and adjustments of reasonable rates and terms of royalty payments that the Copyright Office will collect.  The Board was created pursuant to the Copyright Royalty and Distribution Reform Act of 2004, consisting of three permanent copyright royalty judges that the Library of Congress appoints.

How to Avoid Copyright Infringement

If you did not write it, film it, produce it or take it, then it is not yours. You are likely violating Copyright laws if you film a movie in a theater. If you sell a book that you did not write without permission, it is a copyright violation. If you use a photograph in a blog that you did not take, or generally use anything that you did not create, they are also copyright violations. The penalties for infringement range from civil fines that consist of legal fees, to jail time.  It is best to take precautions to avoid infringement at all costs.

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Posted in: Copyright, Intellectual Property