Saturday, January 14, 2006

11 Myths About Copyright Explained

The following is a nice summary of common misconceptions of copyright law. So I might be in trouble from some of my pictures or pasting of comments.

There are new copyright laws in Fiji which I understand was a copy and paste jobs from either Australia or New Zealand copyright laws. I havent seen it been inforced properly in Fiji though

The 11 myths are

1) If it doesn't have a copyright notice, it's not copyrighted.
2) If I don't charge for it, it's not a violation.
3) If it's posted to Usenet it's in the public domain.
4) My posting was just fair use!
5) If you don't defend your copyright you lose it.
6) If I make up my own stories, but base them on another work, my new work belongs to me.
7) They can't get me, defendants in court have powerful rights!
8) Oh, so copyright violation isn't a crime or anything?
9) It doesn't hurt anybody -- in fact it's free advertising.
10) They e-mailed me a copy, so I can post it.
11) So I can't ever reproduce anything?

On point myth 11 I will include the authors comments which was

No, copyright isn't an iron-clad lock on what can be published. Indeed, by many arguments, by providing reward to authors, it encourages them to not just allow, but fund the publication and distribution of works so that they reach far more people than they would if they were free or unprotected -- and unpromoted. However, it must be remembered that copyright has two main purposes, namely the protection of the author's right to obtain commercial benefit from valuable work, and more recently the protection of the author's general right to control how a work is used.

While copyright law makes it technically illegal to reproduce almost any new creative work (other than under fair use) without permission, if the work is unregistered and has no real commercial value, it gets very little protection. The author in this case can sue for an injunction against the publication, actual damages from a violation, and possibly court costs. Actual damages means actual money potentially lost by the author due to publication, plus any money gained by the defendant. But if a work has no commercial value, such as a typical E-mail message or conversational USENET posting, the actual damages will be zero. Only the most vindictive (and rich) author would sue when no damages are possible, and the courts don't look kindly on vindictive plaintiffs, unless the defendants are even more vindictive.

The author's right to control what is done with a work, however, has some validity, even if it has no commercial value. If you feel you need to violate a copyright "because you can get away with it because the work has no value" you should ask yourself why you're doing it. In general, respecting the rights of creators to control their creations is a principle many advocate adhering to.

In addition, while more often than not people claim a "fair use" copying incorrectly, fair use is a valid concept necessary to allow the criticism of copyrighted works and their creators through examples. But please read more about it before you do it.


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