Everything you ever wanted to know about copyright law but didn’t know to ask
Why should anyone care about copyright law? Even if the only creative work you’ve ever done is upload your profile picture to Facebook, surprise! Your life has been affected by copyright law.
If you’re an artist or journalist who has asked the questions, “How can I get people to see my work?” or “How can I make money off of my work?” it may be helpful to take a look at this guide.
If you’re just an average person who is afraid of getting in trouble for downloading the wrong file, or uploading the wrong video to YouTube, it might also be helpful.
If you’re starting a business and you’re trying to figure out some of the legal issues that may affect your website, marketing materials, and promotional videos and photos, checking out this guide would be a great idea.
What you’ll find below is a plain English summary of U.S. copyright law along with answers to frequently asked questions about the practical ways the law affects your creative work. It’s written in an easy-to read manner, so even people without any legal training won’t have trouble understanding it. That said, we’re always looking for ways to improve it, so if you have suggestions, definitely include them in your comments.
You can read this guide from start to finish like a book, or if you have specific issues, you can consult the table of contents and skip through to the most relevant topics.
What an amazing time for Internet rights! Millions of internet users and creators like you put a stop to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) in Congress. These laws threatened free speech and innovation by allowing blocking of entire web services due to infringing content posted on a single webpage.
You have the power to shape the future of a free and open internet, but Internet rights battles don't end with SOPA & PIPA. Wireless carriers, large media companies, and other gatekeepers continue to find ways to artificially limit your ability to access services and share content online. Our February newsletter explains how NMR has been working tirelessly on behalf of internet users, creators and consumers in the new year.
New Media Rights has filed comments with the Copyright Office supporting three exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s anti-circumvention provisions. Similar to our 2009 comment to the Copyright Office, this comment supports the right to bypass anti-circumvention technologies to a) allow individuals to take control of the apps and services they use on their mobile devices, and b) allow creators and internet users to reuse video content for fair use purposes. Our 2012 comment also supports recommendations that these exemptions should be extended beyond their 2009 counterparts in two very important ways – we argue that jailbreaking should also apply to tablets and that the bypassing of anti-circumvention technology should include non-DVD sources.
The exemptions provide an important safety valve for otherwise lawful behavior by consumers and creators.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Art Neill, Executive Director, New Media Rights, (619) 591-8870
On February 6, 2012, New Media Rights joined approximately 70 grass-roots groups, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, human rights groups, communities of color, and Internet companies in sending a letter asking Congress to stop its work on intellectual property issues in the wake of massive public protests against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA).
On October 27, 2011, the Copyright Office released a Notice of Inquiry soliciting commentary on how copyright holders and defendants address small copyright claims within the current legal system, the drawbacks and benefits of the current system, and potential alternative methods for handling such claims. The Copyright Office was primarily concerned that the high cost of federal copyright litigation (as much as $350,000 for claims under $1 million) may be dissuading copyright holders from filing lawsuits where damages are relatively low, because the potential award will not justify the expense of the litigation. Unlike many other varieties of small claims, state small claims courts are not available as a venue for resolving disputes over small copyright claims, because federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction over copyright claims. The Copyright Office suggested a number of potential solutions including creating a federal small claims court and allowing state small claims courts to hear copyright disputes.
In our January 17, 2012 comment, New Media Rights identifies a key frustration afflicting small-scale defendants, the “settling culture” that has emerged within the current system whereby defendants are intimidated into paying settlements and accepting DMCA takedown requests rather than risk the high costs of federal litigation. Copyright holders exploit the high cost of federal litigation to extract unwarranted settlements from small-scale defendants and impose improper DMCA takedowns. We tell that story with real life examples.
Michael Colin is a independent documentary filmmaker. Documentary films often reuse content that already exists, and if that content isn't in the public domain, or licensed, filmmakers sometimes need to rely on fair use under copyright law. New Media Rights helped Michael analyze the Fair Use issues in his film. Here's his testimonial of how we helped him.
In our new book, we focus on issues you may encounter from the inception of your business to the moment (that hopefully doesn’t happen) you get a nasty lawyer letter for the first time.
You’ll learn how to form your business, protect your intellectual property, and avoid problems when launching your project. Taking a few simple steps upfront to protect your business or project can save time and money down the road. Don't Panic has also been used in undergraduate & graduate classes nationwide to teach business and legal concepts to non-lawyers. Professors can request a FREE evaluation copy