Copyright in the Digital Era
You need only take a brief look around you in today’s modern digital world and the exchange of information and ideas through the internet, social media sites, smart phones and video recordings is immense. This acceleration in sharing of all types of information including academic, entertainment, art, music photos, videos, films and literature poses some serious challenges to the idea of copyright and who ‘owns’ what information or idea.
It has become increasingly difficult to monitor and address copyright laws in the modern world. One of the giants of the social media sites, Twitter, recently cracked down on people re-tweeting (or copying) jokes under the copyright law. The joke in question was deleted on the request of the writer, who originally created it on the grounds that it was her ‘intellectual property’. Copyright law encompasses a vast spectrum, from re-posting a joke on a social media site to copying and publishing another author’s work as your own. This post aims to look at copyright law worldwide and what everybody needs to be aware of.
What Exactly is Copyright
Most of us these days are aware of the general idea of Copyright, but what exactly is it? Copyright © is a law that protects any work that qualifies after it has been physically expressed in some form. What does this mean? Well, I think it is quite a complicated concept because a lot of original works of art, for example, are actually built on many years of developing and adapting previous ideas.
Ideas, in and of themselves, are not, and can not be subject to copyright law, only the expressive form of those ideas. For example, an internet site on breast cancer information, because it is quite a factual topic, may well have very similar information to many other sites, but as long as the information is given in a unique style and not directly copied, the site would not have any copyright issues. One of the purposes of copyright law is to encourage original creative works.
What Works are Copyright Protected?
Copyright legislation aims to protect literary, scientific and artistic works. These include:
- Design: Architectural, Products
- Literary Works: Poems, novels, scientific articles, essays, short stories, plays
- Art Works: Paintings, Sculptures, Photographs
- Media: Films: Videos, Video Games, Software Codes, Games, CD-ROMS, Websites
- Music: Sheet music, recorded musical performances
- Dance: Choreography
What Works are NOT Copyright Protected?
Copyright legislation does NOT cover the following:
- Ideas: These include discoveries, principles and general theories such as Einstein’s theory of relativity.
- Factual Information: Facts are not in themselves protected by copyright law. So, for example, if you were to write a paper on lung cancer, or OCD the actual statistics of occurrence are not protected by copyright law. However, if an opening paragraph had been put together using these and other facts, that piece of work would qualify for copyright laws.
- United States Government Works: Includes such areas as governmental speeches, press releases, official reports and laws.
- Works not in Physical Form: As soon as any piece of work is recorded or written or expressed in the physical it then becomes subject to copyright law. Any unrecorded speeches or ideas are not subject to copyright. Be aware then if you have a brilliant idea do not verbally share it before it has been written or recorded in some physical form.
- Names, Singular Words, Short Phrases, Slogans and Titles: To prevent everybody being continuously in breach of the copyright law, everyday words and phrases are not subject to the law. Trademark names are subject to copyright law. You can use a general title or short phrase such as ‘ try this new healthy weight loss dish ‘, without any issues.
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