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Appalachian Copyright Academy: Infringement

Copyright Infringement

What is Copyright Infringement?

Copyright Infringement pertains to the violation of someone's intellectual property (IP). It is another term for piracy of the theft of someone's original creation, especially if the one who stole reaps the benefits and not the creator of the material. 

To understand copyright infringement, you must first know the rights, as well as the limitations, of a copyright holder. It's possible to engage in copying and distributing someone's work without actually violating or infringing anything, so you're not legally accountable. It's also possible to be subjected to a legal process even if you had no intention or knowledge that you stole from the owner. 

Terms of Protection

Terms of Protection for Copyrighted Work

A creator has copyright protection for their work for as long as they live. The term of protection ends 70 years after their death, though. If the work was the result of a collaboration, then the terms of protection will last 70 years after the last surviving creator's death. However, if the work was an anonymous or pseudonymous creation, then the terms of protection will last 95 years from it's publication date.

How to Avoid copyright Infringement

Tips for avoiding Copyright Infringement

It's super easy to reproduce and distribute other people's creative, original works in this day and age. However, using copyrighted material is not worth the damage it can do to your finances, time, and sanity. Here are some tips for avoiding copyright infringement and the inevitable court case:

  • Always assume that there is a copyright - Better safe than sorry. If you cannot find an explicit statement confirming that the material is for public use, then there's a good chance that someone already owns the rights to it and you should try an obtain written consent to use the work.
  • Read and research before using an IP that's not yours - Some creators are willing to grant permission for a price or if they are given proper attribution. If there's no specific fee or other attribution conditions, you could try and find the Terms of Use on the owner's official website. If you can't find any of those three, then it's better to assume that there are prohibitions to the material. Your best bet is to contact the owner for expressed consent.
  • Understand the ins and outs of Fair Use - Under Fair Use, you can still freely take advantage of original work for non-commercial endeavors if you cannot obtain consent. But there are a few variables that might affect your usage. Before taking someone else's work, ask yourself - how your use will impact its value in the market? Always be cautious and consult a legal expert on copyright laws when in doubt. 
  • Take advantage of materials from the Public Domain - There are many sources for free-to-use materials under the Public Domain. Search for the ones with Creative Commons licensing, which can be commercially viable.
  • Create your own or pay someone for the original work - If you have the creative or artistic skill, bust it out and you can create original materials rather than deriving it from other's work. You can also commission other people to be the creators. If so, you will still hold the copyright under "works made for hire" or within the scope of employment of contract of the creative.


Examples of Copyright Infringement

  •  Music in home videos, business presentations, or any kind of creative work of yours that you have not obtained permission to use
  • Any downloaded materials from websites not owned by the creators. This includes movies, TV shows, music, software or e-books
  • If you pass on recorded TV shows for profit, or you broadcast/post the recording online
  • Photographs, graphics, and artwork used without permission in posters, flyers, brochures, or your own website

Head of Scholarly Communications