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Guidelines for Avoiding Copyright Infringement

If you are an innovative and creative individual who has a lot of unique ideas, you can understand the importance of copyright laws and intellectual property. The same applies to business owners and professionals in the fields of music and film production, graphic design, theater, and content creation.

What follows are guidelines on how to avoid copyright infringement, look at examples of copyright infringement, and talk about its potential harm and the damages it may cause.

What Is Copyright Infringement?

Copyright infringement refers to stealing, copying, or using material that copyright protects. This applies only in the cases when someone uses this work without the owner of the copyright’s permission. Works that can be copyrighted often include music, literature, graphics, motion pictures, web content, and so on.

Copyright infringement is a punishable offense. Here is an example of copyright infringement: using a copyrighted music sample without the creator’s permission. That alone can cost you thousands of dollars in penalties and legal fees.

Different Types of Copyright

Copyright laws prevent non-owners of the property from making copies of the copyrighted work and distributing it to the public. The copyright owner has exclusive rights to the work, and they create the conditions under which other people can use their work. Copyright protection ensures that theft of their work will not go unpunished.

The best way to understand the concept of copyright is to see what it can apply to. There are different types of copyright. Here are some of the most common and important ones to know about.

Sound recordings

Sound recordings refer to any series of sounds, whether musical or spoken, that someone recorded. That, however, does not include the sounds that were used in a film or any other audiovisual project. To put it into simpler terms, sound recordings often refer to songs and performances musical artists record… When a music producer creates a beat for a song, they can choose to copyright it to prevent other artists from using it without their permission.

Broadcasts

Broadcasts refer to the transmission of a moving image or sound to the public or a select group of people. Broadcasts include television shows, films, radio programs, and more. Let’s take a movie as an example. Usually, it is the production company that owns the rights to the film they made. Thus, only the production company can decide when and where the movie will be broadcasted. A TV channel cannot simply copy the movie and broadcast it; the channel has to buy rights to the movie from the production company. In the opposite case, the channel is risking a lawsuit.

Databases

A database can be defined as a compilation of materials or documents. In other words, it is a collection of documents or data that has been assembled in a way that inspires ownership. The only thing is the database has to be creative and unique to allow for the copyright to work. That can be translated in the selection and arrangement of works it holds. So, copyright laws do not protect all databases. 

Exceptions to Copyright Infringement

Fair use

You can be excused from committing copyright infringement if you can prove that your use of the copyrighted work was fair. The problem with fair use is that there isn’t a clear set of rules that guide it. Each case is different and has to be looked at individually.

If a copyright case goes to court, the jury will look at the work’s purpose. If the work you created with the copyrighted material is for commercial use, it is less likely to be fair use. On the other hand, work made for teaching or research is more likely to be excused.

Then, they will look at the copyrighted work you used. The cards are in your favor if the work is not very creative, but rather factual. You are also in luck if the work has been published for the world to see. Additionally, the result depends on how much of the copyrighted work you used and how it affected your work. If the amount is small and virtually insignificant to your work, then it can be fair use. Finally, your work should have no effect on the copyright owner and their work.

In other words, you have to make sure that your use of the copyrighted material is not going to harm the owner of the copyright or make you any money. But, how do you avoid copyright infringement? Keep on reading to find out.

How to Avoid Copyright Infringement

Here are some tips for avoiding copyright infringement:

Understanding the law

If you really want to do something, you have to understand it. Understanding copyright laws will make implementing them in your life easier. For that purpose, it’s recommended to look at intellectual property as a physical object. People often say, “You wouldn’t steal a car.” You can look at music, databases, web contents (usually with a copyright symbol in the footer), and broadcasts the same way.

Copyright laws stand to protect the ownership rights of creative professionals. If it weren’t for copyright, any channel could simply broadcast any movie they like and the people that made the movie would never get paid for their work. Obeying copyright laws is like citing your sources in an essay. Give credit where credit is due.

Use only your own original works

If you want to stay on the safe side, you might as well only use your own work. That is a great solution that will prevent you from stealing someone else’s work. Unfortunately, it can be quite difficult. Some of the greatest songs were made with samples from other songs. Collaborating with other artists can be very fruitful for all parties involved. However, it has to be legal.

Before you turn to other artists for inspiration, see what you can do with your own brain. Maybe you can come up with ideas that are even more innovative.

What is on the Internet is not always fair game

In this day and age, it seems as though everything that you find online is free to use. However, you can’t just go ahead and download that image or listen to that song or copy that text with no repercussions. If the copyright symbol and date are on the site, don’t touch Yes, people do it all the time, that is true, and you probably won’t get in trouble a lot of the time, but that doesn’t make it OK. The situation is even more complex when you want to use something you found on the internet in your own project.

Remember the fair use principle. If you want to use an internet image for a school presentation that only a handful of people will see and will make you no profit, it is most probably all right. It would be nice if you give credit. 

However, if you want to put that same image on your merchandise without any editing and sell it, you are going to need a good lawyer to defend you. Remember that someone created that image, and you are stealing their work. Besides, there are excellent stock photo websites where you can get your images for free.

Do you need legal assistance?Find the right lawyer in your area.

How to Report Copyright Infringement

The way you report copyright infringement will depend on the situation’s circumstances. Start with where you found the case of copyright infringement that you would like to report. Social media platforms, for example, have their own help centers where you can report all sorts of issues. So, if you see that someone on Instagram is using your or your friend’s work without permission, you can submit your complaint straight to Instagram. The photo will be flagged and taken down. Eventually, the account that used copyrighted work without permission might be blocked from posting for a while or forever.

There are specific websites where you can report copyright infringement based on the category:

•   IPR Center: Use this link for any category. You will have to download a form, fill it out, and submit it.

•   RIAA: Use this link for music infringement. You can get in touch with RIAA by filling out and submitting the form on the website.

•   BSA: Report a software copyright infringement here.

•   SIIA: File reports against piracy here. You can report software piracy and content piracy. Content piracy refers to any literary content and publishing, including books, academic journals, and articles.

Also read:Trade Name Infringement: The Complete Legal Guide

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Avoiding Copyright Infringement: Possible Penalties

Copyright infringement is dealt with in the court of law on a case-by-case basis. Therefore it is nearly impossible to predict how big or small the penalty for a particular case may be. Generally speaking, the court offers a range between $200 and $150,000 per case. In addition to that, the person that was accused of copyright infringement has to pay all the legal fees for both parties.

In most cases, the infringer will pay a fine and have to remove the work from where the public can hear or see it. If, for example, the infringer used another person’s sound recording to make a song, they will have to remove their song from the internet and all other outlets. In the worst-case scenario, the infringer can go to jail. The maximum feasible sentence for copyright infringement is around five years.

Conclusion

Copyright infringement is a serious issue that many people refuse to take seriously. It is a criminal offense that can land you in jail or, at the very least, put your bank account at risk of a large fine. Hopefully, now you know how to prevent copyright infringement, what copyright restrictions are, and what you do and don’t need a license for. Use the resources mentioned above to report any cases of copyright infringement.

Article by Sofi Ostymchuk

Sofi Ostymchuk is a Content Lead and Legal Writer at Lawrina. Sofi manages the content on the blog, communicates with contributors, looks for interesting topics, and creates articles in cooperation with lawyers and law experts. If you would like to be a blogger for Lawrina, you can contact Sofi for all the details via email at s.ostymchuk@lawrina.com.

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