What Is Copyright?
In this section you'll learn what Copyright is all about and what type of material is covered under Copyright law.
The Unites States Copyright Act, TITLE I7, SEC. 101, OCT. 19, 1976, 90 STAT, is a law enacted by congress in 1976 to protect original work. The Act protects creators, or owners of original work by preventing others to duplicate, distribute or alter their work. Only the person that holds the copyright may determine who can use their work.
All original work in tangible form is covered by the Copyright Act. Tangible form means something that you can touch, or something material. Material could be a book, or a piece of paper, or a Web site or a sculpture. But it can't be your thoughts and ideas, no matter how great they may be.
In order to obtain Copyright for your material, the material must be original. Phone books, links, everyday symbols such as circles and squares are not copyrightable, because they lack originality. Facts are not original. However, the presentation of facts or links may be copywritten if they are presented in an original way. The Reference page on Copyright in this section contains links and facts about Copyright. The facts and links are not Copyrightable in and of themselves, but the way that they are presented is, because it's original, thought-out and it took us some time to compile the links. Therefore, if you copy the table on our Reference page, you are violating our Copyright. Don't worry, we'll explain this as we go on.
Original work does not have to be novel or creativeit simple refers to someone's original, tangible material. Copyright protects original material such as written content, original art, graphics, advertisers, architecture, sound, music, lyrics and recorded voice. It includes online material, such as material posted to the internet.
The copyright owner has the exclusive right to reproduce, modify, distribute, publicly display, and publicly perform the copyrighted work.
When someone who is not the owner of the Copyright uses copywritten material for his or her own purposes, without permission, they are guilty of Copyright infringement.
Under the law Copyright infringement is illegal. It can be both a civil and a criminal offense. (There is one exception, called Fair Use but we discuss this later).
How Long Is Material Covered by Copyright?
The Copyright Act protects:
- Work created before 1978 for 75 years from the date of publicationproviding that the Copyright is renewed.
- Work created, but not published, before 1978 until December 31, 2002.
- Works created from 1975 to the present for 50 years after the death of the author, if the author owns the Copyright; and for 75 years from the date of publication if an employer owns the Copyright.
For some reason, many people fail to see work on the Web as Copyrighted material. But most of the material on the Web is copywritten. That includes the words, the pictures, illustrations, graphics, banner ads, and sounds. While it is common for people to snag pictures, text and entire original HTML source code from a Web page (for example, a cross-platform compatible mouseover script for sound that you created); it's illegal if it's copywritten material. Assume that a Web page is copywritten unless you know for sure that it isn't.