Copyright 101: What do You Need to Know?

Copyright 101_ What do You Need to Know_ _ mediaone marketing singapore

Copyright law is a complex and often misunderstood area of the law.

It governs how creators can use their work, and how others can use that work. Understanding the basics of copyright law is important for anyone who creates or uses creative works.

In this blog post, we’ll go through the essentials of copyright law and answer some common questions people have about it.

What is Copyright?

Copyright is a legal concept that gives the creator of a creative work exclusive rights to use and distribute that work. This includes the right to copy, distribute, and make derivative works based on the original work. Copyright law is designed to protect the rights of creators and ensure they are fairly compensated for their work.

Copyright is a form of intellectual property law, which means it protects intangible assets like ideas and creative works. Other forms of intellectual property law include patents, trademarks, and trade secrets.

What can be copyrighted?

Copyright law covers a broad range of creative works, including:

  • Literary works (such as books, poems, and articles)
  • Musical works (such as songs and instrumental pieces)
  • Dramatic works (such as plays and screenplays)
  • Artistic works (such as paintings, drawings, and photographs)
  • Films and other audiovisual works
  • Computer programs and software
  • Architectural works

The list is not exhaustive, and copyright law can cover other types of creative works as well.

What rights do copyright owners have?

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Copyright owners have a bundle of exclusive rights, including the right to:

  • Reproduce the work
  • Distribute copies of the work
  • Perform the work publicly
  • Display the work publicly
  • Create derivative works based on the original work

These rights are not absolute, however. There are several exceptions and limitations to copyright law that allow for certain uses of copyrighted material without the permission of the copyright owner.

How long does copyright last?

The duration of copyright protection varies depending on the type of work and the country in which the work was created. In the United States, for example, copyright protection generally lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years. In some cases, works created by multiple authors or by corporate entities may have different copyright durations.

After the copyright term expires, the work enters the public domain and can be used by anyone without permission from the copyright owner.

How do I obtain copyright protection?

Copyright protection is automatic when a work is created. There is no need to register the work with any government agency or office. However, registering the work with the United States Copyright Office can provide certain benefits, such as the ability to sue for infringement and the ability to collect statutory damages.

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To register a work, the copyright owner must submit an application to the Copyright Office and pay a fee. The application must include a copy of the work being registered and certain other information, such as the author’s name and the date of creation.

What is fair use?

Fair use is a legal doctrine that allows for the use of copyrighted material without the permission of the copyright owner under certain circumstances. Fair use is determined on a case-by-case basis and depends on factors such as the purpose and character of the use, the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount and substantiality of the portion used, and the effect of the use on the market for the original work.

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Examples of fair use include:

  • Using a small portion of a copyrighted work for the purpose of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research.
  • Parody or satire of a copyrighted work
  • Using a copyrighted work in a news broadcast or documentary for the purpose of reporting or educating.

It’s important to note that fair use is not an absolute defense to copyright infringement. Courts will consider all of the circumstances of a particular case when determining whether a particular use is fair.

What is infringement?

Copyright infringement occurs when someone uses a copyrighted work without permission from the copyright owner or without falling under one of the exceptions or limitations to copyright law. Infringement can take many forms, such as copying or distributing a work without permission, creating derivative works based on the original work, or performing or displaying a work publicly without permission.

If someone is found to have infringed on a copyright, the copyright owner can seek damages, such as monetary compensation for any profits the infringer made from using the copyrighted work or for any damages the owner suffered as a result of the infringement.

How can I protect my own copyrighted work?

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There are several steps you can take to protect your own copyrighted work, including:

  • Including a copyright notice on your work, such as “Copyright [year] [author’s name]. All rights reserved.”
  • Registering your work with the United States Copyright Office to obtain additional legal protections and benefits
  • Using digital rights management (DRM) technologies to prevent unauthorized copying or distribution of your work
  • Monitoring the internet for unauthorized uses of your work and taking action to remove or prevent them
  • Licensing your work to others for a fee or under certain conditions
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It’s important to note that simply creating a work does not guarantee protection under copyright law. The work must be original and fixed in a tangible form, and the copyright owner must have exclusive rights to use and distribute the work.

What should I do if someone has infringed on my copyright?

If you believe someone has infringed on your copyright, there are several steps you can take to enforce your rights, including:

  • Contacting the infringing party directly and requesting that they stop using your copyrighted work
  • Sending a cease and desist letter to the infringing party, warning them of legal action if they do not stop using your copyrighted work
  • Filing a lawsuit in court against the infringing party to seek damages and/or an injunction to prevent further infringement

It’s important to note that copyright infringement lawsuits can be complex and costly, and it’s often best to consult with a lawyer before taking any legal action.

Types of Copyright

In this section, we’ll go through the different types of copyright and explain what each one covers.

  1. Literary Copyright

Literary copyright covers written works such as novels, poems, articles, and other works of fiction and non-fiction. This type of copyright protects the words and ideas in a written work and gives the copyright owner exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, and perform the work.

  1. Musical Copyright

Musical copyright covers compositions, songs, and other musical works. This type of copyright protects the melody, lyrics, and arrangement of a musical work and gives the copyright owner exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, and perform the work.

  1. Artistic Copyright

Artistic copyright covers works of art such as paintings, drawings, and photographs. This type of copyright protects the originality and creativity of the artwork and gives the copyright owner exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, and display the work.

  1. Dramatic Copyright

Dramatic copyright covers plays, scripts, and other dramatic works. This type of copyright protects the dialogue, characters, and storyline of a dramatic work and gives the copyright owner exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, and perform the work.

  1. Audiovisual Copyright

Audiovisual copyright covers films, videos, and other works that combine sound and visual elements. This type of copyright protects the content and structure of an audiovisual work and gives the copyright owner exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, and display the work.

  1. Architectural Copyright

Architectural copyright covers original designs of buildings, structures, and other architectural works. This type of copyright protects the originality and creativity of the design and gives the copyright owner exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, and display the work.

  1. Software Copyright

Software copyright covers computer programs and software. This type of copyright protects the code and structure of the software and gives the copyright owner exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, and use the software.

  1. Database Copyright

Database copyright covers collections of data such as directories, catalogs, and other compilations of information. This type of copyright protects the organization and structure of the data and gives the copyright owner exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, and use the database.

  1. Moral Rights

Moral rights are a type of copyright that protect the integrity of a work and the reputation of the author. These rights include the right to be identified as the author of a work, the right to prevent the work from being modified or distorted in a way that would harm the author’s reputation, and the right to disassociate from a work that has been modified or distorted in a way that would harm the author’s reputation.

  1. Public Domain

Public domain works are not protected by copyright and can be used by anyone without permission from the copyright owner. Works may enter the public domain for several reasons, including because the copyright term has expired, because the copyright owner has dedicated the work to the public domain, or because the work is not eligible for copyright protection.

Examples of Sued Casesof Brands Regarding Copyright

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In recent years, there have been several high-profile cases of brands being sued for copyright infringement. In this section, we’ll go through some of these cases and explain what happened in each one.

  1. Urban Outfitters vs. Navajo Nation
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In 2012, the Navajo Nation sued Urban Outfitters for trademark infringement and violation of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act. The Navajo Nation claimed that Urban Outfitters had used the Navajo name and designs without permission on clothing and accessories, including a “Navajo hipster panty” and a “Navajo print flask.”

The case was settled out of court in 2016, with Urban Outfitters agreeing to remove all references to “Navajo” from their products and pay the Navajo Nation an undisclosed sum of money.

  1. Gucci vs. Forever 21

In 2017, luxury fashion brand Gucci sued fast-fashion retailer Forever 21 for trademark infringement, claiming that Forever 21 had copied several of Gucci’s trademarked designs, including its green-red-green and blue-red-blue stripes.

The case was settled out of court in 2018, with Forever 21 agreeing to stop using the disputed designs and pay Gucci an undisclosed sum of money.

  1. Nike vs. MSCHF

In 2021, Nike sued art collective MSCHF for copyright infringement and trademark dilution over its “Satan Shoes” collaboration with rapper Lil Nas X. The shoes, which were modified Nike Air Max 97s, featured a pentagram, an inverted cross, and a drop of human blood in the sole.

Nike claimed that the shoes were likely to cause confusion and dilute the value of its trademark, and that MSCHF had infringed on its copyright by using its design without permission.

The case was settled out of court, with MSCHF agreeing to buy back the “Satan Shoes” and offering refunds to customers who had purchased them.

  1. Apple vs. Samsung

In 2011, technology giant Apple sued Samsung for copyright infringement over its Galaxy smartphones and tablets. Apple claimed that Samsung had copied the design and functionality of its iPhone and iPad, including its touchscreen and icon layout.

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The case went to trial in 2012, and a jury awarded Apple $1.05 billion in damages. The case was appealed several times, with the damages ultimately being reduced to $539 million in 2018.

  1. Disney vs. Redbox

In 2018, media giant Disney sued rental kiosk company Redbox for copyright infringement over its practice of selling digital codes for Disney movies. Disney claimed that Redbox was not authorized to sell the codes and that doing so violated its copyright.

The case was settled out of court in 2019, with Redbox agreeing to stop selling the digital codes and pay Disney an undisclosed sum of money.

These cases demonstrate the importance of respecting copyright law and the potential consequences for those who infringe on the rights of copyright owners.

If you’re a brand or individual who creates or uses creative works, it’s important to be aware of copyright law and to obtain permission from copyright owners before using their works.

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By doing so, you can avoid the risk of being sued for copyright infringement and protect your own creative works from being infringed upon by others.

Frequent Q&A About Copyright?

Q: What is copyright?

A: Copyright is a form of intellectual property law that gives creators of original works exclusive rights to control how their works are used, distributed, and reproduced.

Q: What types of works can be copyrighted?

A: A wide range of creative works can be copyrighted, including literary works, musical works, dramatic works, artistic works, films and other audiovisual works, computer programs and software, and architectural works.

Q: How long does copyright protection last?

A: The duration of copyright protection varies depending on the type of work and the country in which the work was created. In the United States, for example, copyright protection generally lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years.

Q: Do I need to register my work to obtain copyright protection?

A: No, copyright protection is automatic when a work is created. However, registering the work with the United States Copyright Office can provide certain benefits, such as the ability to sue for infringement and the ability to collect statutory damages.

Q: What is fair use?

A: Fair use is a legal doctrine that allows for the use of copyrighted material without the permission of the copyright owner under certain circumstances, such as for the purpose of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. Whether a particular use is considered fair use depends on several factors, such as the purpose and character of the use, the nature of the copyrighted work, and the effect of the use on the market for the original work.

About the Author

Tom Koh

Tom is the CEO and Principal Consultant of MediaOne, a leading digital marketing agency. He has consulted for MNCs like Canon, Maybank, Capitaland, SingTel, ST Engineering, WWF, Cambridge University, as well as Government organisations like Enterprise Singapore, Ministry of Law, National Galleries, NTUC, e2i, SingHealth. His articles are published and referenced in CNA, Straits Times, MoneyFM, Financial Times, Yahoo! Finance, Hubspot, Zendesk, CIO Advisor.

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