Exceptions to Copyright Infringement

A copyright is a form of intellectual property protection given to works of original authorship that are created in a tangible form of expression. Copyrights can be created in original works such as:

  • Writings and other literature.
  • Works of art.
  • Movies and films.
  • Musical compositions and performances.
  • Artistic performances, such as dance or plays.
  • Sculptures.
  • Architecture.

What Is Copyright Infringement?

Once a copyright is created in an original creative work, it is illegal for someone else to use that work without permission for financial gain. Federal law protects against copyright infringement and is codified in 17 U.S.C. Chapter 5, Sections 501-513. Infringement could include activities such as someone, without permission, making copies of the work, distributing copies of the work, performing the work publicly, displaying the work, and in some cases making derivative works based on an original creative work.

Regardless of whether a copyright is registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, if a copyright is infringed upon by another the copyright holder can bring a copyright infringement lawsuit against the infringing party and is entitled to at least any financial damages or losses that result from the infringement. If the copyright is registered, the copyright holder may also be entitled to statutory damages as well, which are often higher than economic damages.

Limited Exceptions to Copyright Infringement

Fair Use. A few exceptions exist in the law where a person can use copyrighted material without permission, but these exceptions are very limited.  One of these exceptions are referred to as “Fair Use” exceptions. As a general rule, fair use exceptions include:

  • Using limited amounts of copyrighted material for noncommercial or nonprofit educational purposes.
  • Using limited reproductions of a copyrighted work for news reporting or criticism purposes.
  • Using limited reproductions of a copyrighted work for scholarship or research purposes.

However, determining fair use often involves a weighing of factors surrounding the fair use of a copyrighted material, such as the amount used or the purpose of the use.

Public Domain.  Another exception exists after a copyright expires resulting in a creative work losing its copyright protection.  The work is then described as being “in the public domain.”  When a creative work enters the public domain anyone can use it without the permission of the copyright holder because there is no longer copyright protection on the work.

If you have questions concerning copyrights and copyright infringement, please contact Parsons & Goltry at patentsavers.com, or call the office at 480-991-3435.

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