Core Copyright

Copyright essentials for everyday creators

Posts Tagged ‘Copyright Act of 1976

Copyright, Grammar & Notices

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This post was motivated by a question I received by e-mail about Vol. 1 of the Copyright Myths & Misconceptions series. The question, which was about a post on Tina Rathore’s filling Interstices blog, asked

Is it right to write “© Copyright by tina rathore ” with every blog post? I mean shouldn’t it be “copyrighted to Tina Rathore”? Please explain.

We are discussing this on Tina’s blog (link is http://tinarathore.wordpress.com/2010/01/04/stay-awhile/). Thanks.

Of the options that were presented in this question — using “Copyright by Tina Rathore” or “Copyright to Tina Rathore” — I probably would lean toward using the latter. Ultimately, though, neither of these choices seems satisfying or correct in light of some applicable research I am doing.

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Copyright Myths & Misconceptions

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Before I delve into the substantive law and theory of U.S. copyright, I will address some common myths and misconceptions I have heard routinely about this topic. As I have outlined previously, copyright now is commonly applicable to people’s everyday actions. This wide applicability, however, has not necessarily resulted in the average Joe and Jane having a higher copyright IQ.

One need look no further than Twitter to see how many of these misconceptions get originated and repeated. I have seen tweets that claimed to copyright a hairdo. I have seen tweets that assumed the year’s passage would allow them to freely copy on Jan. 1 work that was protected by copyright on Dec. 31. (Both statements are incorrect.)

But folks on Twitter are not the only ones who commonly commit basic copyright errors. News journalists — who really should know better — frequently get basic copyright concepts incorrect. Too often reporters conflate copyright and other forms of intellectual property. Even intellectual property lawyers routinely provide incorrect information about U.S. copyright. For example, I have seen posts from intellectual property lawyers that claim “If you find a picture on Flickr, another blog, or somewhere else online and upload it to your own blog (or worse yet, inline link to it from your blog) without permission, you’re committing a copyright violation.” On its face, that is simply an incorrect statement, mainly because it fails to allow for a raft of limitations in the Copyright Act of 1976.

Thus, with this post, I address (and hopefully resolve) some of the common copyright myths I have seen, heard, or encountered in my years of dealing with this topic. Consider this to be the first in a recurring series: I will provide updates occasionally as I come across newer and more interesting or perplexing myths and misconceptions.

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Acknowledging Copyright’s Complexity

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Core Copyright’s mission is to simplify U.S. copyright law and policy in a reliable, unbiased, and knowledgeable way so that anyone who is affected by the law can understand what it means. While we take our mission seriously, we realize how difficult it will be to fulfill it consistently because of how complicated copyright law is.

I am aware there exists a recurring (and we think, reasonable) argument among some copyright scholars that contends one big reason copyright law has become so problematic is because it never was intended to be widely applicable to citizens. Instead, the argument continues, copyright was developed to govern commercial transactions that involve creative and fixed works; historically, it never (and never was supposed to) govern how individuals relate with or use those same creative and fixed works.

I generally attribute this argument to Jessica Litman, whom I have heard make this argument in speeches and in several of her writings, including her book Digital Copyright. More recently, Jacqui Lipton, a law professor at Case Western, captured the essence of Litman’s argument in rhetorical question she posed in a recent post on Madisonian.net:

Is there any point in having a law that potentially affects things we do everyday that no one understands?

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Written by K Matthew Dames

12/15/2009 at 09:00

What Is Copyright?

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This question seems so obvious and simple as to be undeserving of any scholarly attention. “Copyright” has a long history, tracing back to the early 18th century in Britain –- which includes the variants “copy right” and “copy-right” — so the term is not new. Yet this question is important to ask and answer for several reasons.

First, copyright no longer is a backwater discipline relegated to the inspection of nerdy specialists. Instead, it is now central to the everyday activities of most American citizens.

Second, many people –- lawyers and lay persons alike -– often conflate copyright and “intellectual property.”

Third, there are some important theoretical and political considerations that influence definitions of copyright. While these considerations are advanced issues we are more likely to address over on Copycense than here, they are important these days because of the rhetoric and framing that is being used to position copyright law and policy in one direction or another. I will summarize copyright law’s main theories in a future post, and we will devote extensive coverage to the theory of copyright in upcoming articles on Copycense.

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The Difference Between Copyright & Plagiarism

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Last week, I addressed a common problem in which lawyers and non-lawyers conflate copyright and intellectual property (IP). In this post, I address another common confusion — the conflation of copyright (or copyright infringement) and plagiarism — and rationalize why I think being the subject of plagiarism allegations is much more damaging.

In order to distinguish copyright and plagiarism, it would be helpful to establish operative definitions for both concepts. I assiduously have avoided defining copyright thus far — I did not define copyright in the post on intellectual property — because I believe the term (and its defining parameters) should be defined carefully, particularly given the contemporary use of rhetoric and framing in this area of the law. Therefore, readers should consider as temporary the copyright definition I provide in this post, a placeholder I am using to complete this comparison. I will update this post later to reference the operative definition of copyright that we will be using throughout this publication.

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Why Copyright Is Important

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Copyright used to be a topic that interested a nerdy or specialized few, and affected a limited amount of works and creators. This post outlines some reasons why copyright’s scope, breadth, and applicability has expanded, and why this area of intellectual property has become so important.

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Comparing Core Copyright & Copycense

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Core Copyright and Copycense are complimentary publications that focus on the law and business of creativity and the content that results from it. These publications, however, differ in some substantive ways. This entry summarizes the differences.

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Written by K Matthew Dames

11/23/2009 at 09:00