When it comes to copyright, there are basic concepts we all need to know about. Issues such as what copyright protects and for how long, and determining ownership of a work are some of these basic concepts. However, each of these issues can be looked at from a variety of perspectives on copyright.
Depending on the issue, each of us comes to the copyright table with a perspective. For example, you may be authoring a book, publishing a newsletter, or a librarian helping a patron find appropriate resources.
The material below provides an introduction to this discussion of perspectives on copyright. It’s based on U.S. law but the issues are similar in all countries.
Perspectives on Copyright
Issue: Copyright doesn’t protect ideas
- Author: Only the words I use to express my ideas are protected.
- Publisher: Another publisher can have a similar publication to mine on a similar topic.
- Librarian: If ideas aren’t protected, then I can summarize articles and books rather than reproduce them.
Issue: The use of © isn’t mandatory
- Author: I’ll use the © so people know I’m the author of a work; this may also deter copyright infringement.
- Publisher: I’ll place the © on our publications because I can get greater damages in a lawsuit if the infringement is willful.
- Librarian: I must remind everyone in our library that works are protected even without a ©.
You may also like our article, The International Copyright Symbol.
Issue: Copyright registration is voluntary
- Author: I’ll register my works in case I need to enforce my rights; I may consider registering a collection of works to save on registration fees and paperwork.
- Publisher: I’ll register to ensure that in a lawsuit I receive any losses to us, any profits to the infringer, and possibly attorney fees.
- Librarian: If a work is registered, it may be easier for me to obtain permission to use the work as it will be listed in the records of the Copyright Office.
Issue: Fair use is ambiguous
- Author: Can I use a short quote in an article I write, or lyrics from a song in a book under the fair use principle?
- Publisher: Will I specifically permit certain nonprofit, noncommercial uses to make it easier for readers to interpret fair use?
- Librarian: How can I make a proper analysis of the 4 fair use factors and make a copyright risk analysis in each situation?
Issue: Copyright infringement is unauthorized use of a work
- Author: How can I prevent others from using my work without my permission? How do I monitor unauthorized uses of my work?
- Publisher: How can I make a living with all the unauthorized uses of content? Should I consider using digital rights management (DRM)?
- Librarian: Will I be liable if I unintentionally use content without permission?
Issue: Copyright education
- Author: I need to know all I can about copyright law so I can best protect my work.
- Publisher: I need to be on top of how copyright law affects electronic publishing and social networking.
- Librarian: I need to know about complying with copyright law and be able to educate others I work with about copyright law.
What’s your perspective on copyright law? Or perhaps you have multiple perspectives on copyright law. Understanding perspectives other than your own provides you with a better understanding of general copyright principles.
If you found this article interesting, you may like Copyright Literacy and Translating Copyright to a Life Skill.
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