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Play It Safe: Making Sure You're Not Committing Copyright Infringement
Copyright infringement is not an easy thing to explain. While it may seem as simple as not using someone else?s work, it?s not that easy. Thanks to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and many other organizations, we have the ability to use others? works ? as long as we use it under ?fair use? laws. So what does fair use have to do with copyright infringement, and how can you utilize it?
Fair use laws are the conditions in which you can use a copyrighted work without having to pay someone royalties. This includes when you use a copyrighted work for educational or instructional uses, criticism of the work, commentaries on the work, news reporting about the work, teaching on the work (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship uses, and research. This is talked about fully in Section 107 of the Copyright Code (commonly called Fair Use) and is available for you to read at your local library.
Copyright Infringement in day-to-day life
Sometimes, if you?re writing a paper for work or school, or if you are creating a Power Point presentation, you need to use someone?s work that is already in copyright. So how do you use it without committing copyright infringement? All you have to do is ask ? the worst they can say is no, right? But, if they do say no, there are several items in the public domain which may help you to finish your project without having to commit copyright infringement.
What is the public domain, and how does it relate to copyright infringement?
Material that is not copyrighted is considered in the public domain ? you cannot commit copyright infringement on works in the public domain. These works include things that the copyright has expired on, or is not copyright-able ? such as government publications, jokes, titles, and ideas. Some creators (writers, musicians, artists, and more) deliberately put their work in the public domain, without ever obtaining copyright, by providing an affiliation with Creative Commons. Creative Commons allows people who create materials to forfeit some, or all, of their copyright rights and place their work either partially or fully in the public domain.
So, how do I ensure I?m not committing copyright infringement?
First of all, if you?re going to use someone else?s material, you may want to check the public domain to see if something is suitable for use, instead of trying to use someone else?s copyright. However, if you can?t find something suitable (and you can?t create something yourself), the next best thing (and your only legal course of action) is to find a piece that is in copyright, and contacting the copyright holder.
When you contact the copyright holder, make sure you tell them what you want to use their piece for ? whether it?s for your blog, podcast, or report ? and ask them if you can use it. You may have to pay royalties, or an attribution in your piece, or a combination of both. The creator may also place many limitations on when and how you can use their material. Follow all these instructions they give you, and you?ll be free and clear to use their work as you want.
Once you have permission to use a copyrighted work, you need to make sure you stay within the agreed-upon boundaries - if you veer outside their agreed terms, you may open yourself up for a copyright infringement lawsuit ? which can be nasty, costly, and time consuming. If you?re in doubt, before contacting the copyright holder, contact a copyright lawyer to ensure you?re following the law ? and protect yourself!
Freebie Etiquette (Yes, There is Such a Thing!) When you are on the hunt for free stuff, it can be easy to be so blinded by the offers that your manners go flying out the window completely. You may also just not realize that when it comes to taking advantage of freebies there is a general code of conduct that it pays to follow. While you are racking up the free stuff, keep these common courtesy rules in mind so that you are doing your part to keep the hunt for freebies fun and enjoyable. Freebie etiquette rule number one is to remember that there is a face behind every freebie, no matter how distant it may seem. Since so many freebies come from websites and you don?t actually have interaction with a human being while you are getting them, it can be very easy to forget that someone (or very likely, a lot of someones) worked hard to bring you that website and that free deal. If you have a problem with a website or a form while trying to get some free stuff, deal with it as respectfully as you would if you had to approach a customer service rep in person. Leaving foul-mouthed posts on a message board or unloading a barrage of outrage on a customer reply form isn?t the way forward. Someone ? a real person ? will have to help you, and you?ll get a lot further by treating them with respect. Respect is also the name of the game when it comes to rules attached for freebie offers. There are often restrictions in place for taking advantage of free offers, such as the age you have to be to cash in on the offer or how many offers per household can be taken. Sure, there are plenty of ways to get around these rules and ?trick? a company into giving you an offer for which you are not really eligible. However, when you try to simply bleed out as many free offers as you can, you?re only making it hard on companies to be able to keep bringing these offers to you. If this freebie isn?t for you, take a back seat and make room for the folks who can take advantage of it. Your time will come. Related to this last rule is the idea of not being too greedy when gobbling up the free stuff. Just because something is free doesn?t mean you should use a ?smash and grab? approach and go for as much as you can get of anything you can get. Remember that there are a lot of other people out there who like to get in on the freebies, too, and think about how you would feel if you lost out on something you really wanted because someone came along and took them all. Don?t take more than your share of any free offer, and don?t take things you don?t want or need just because they?re free. Everyone loses when you do that. Last but not least, if you have an opportunity to say thanks for a freebie, grab it. Of course, this can be hard to do when the free offers you are taking advantage of are found on the Internet, but there are still ways. Look for the customer comment field in the request forms you fill out to get your free stuff and leave a quick thank you there. You can also write a thank you on message boards and chat rooms that are associated with the freebie websites. The good will generated by your gratitude will only help convince companies that freebie offers are useful tools for reeling in the customers.
Software copyright act The Software Copyright Act was a Great Step in the Right Direction The software copyright act, which is actually called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act has given software developers a little more power when it comes to protecting their works. If you've bought software in the last few years I'm sure you've noticed some of the changes that have been made in the software buying process. If not, then you really should wake up and take note. Some of the more noteworthy achievements of this act are the following: 1) It is now a crime to go around anti-piracy measures in software. 2) It is no longer legal to make, sale, or give away software or devices that were invented for the purpose of cracking codes enabling the illegal copying of software. 3) Limits the liability that ISPs (as far as copyright infringement violations) when information is transmitted online. The problem isn't the people want to be bad or do something wrong. Most of us by nature want to do the right thing. The problem lies in educating people to the fact that it really is stealing when you bootleg, pirate, illegally download, or otherwise acquire copies of software that you didn't pay for. It's one of those 'white lie' types of crimes for most people and they don't really see how it will hurt anyone for them to copy a game that their brother, cousin, uncle, or friend has. Someone paid for it after all. The problem is that at $50 plus being the average price for computer games and simple software if 10 million people are doing it, the numbers are staggering and they add up quickly. The software copyright act sought to protect businesses from losing money this way. The software copyright act was the worldwide response to a growing problem. This problem was so widespread with illegal downloading of music that lawsuits and massive commercial ad campaigns were initiated in order to curtail illegal downloading activities when it comes to music. It seems to be working to some degree. Fewer people are illegally downloading music; the downside is that these people aren't buying as much music either. The reason is because they are no longer being exposed to the wide variety of music and artists that they were getting freely when downloading music each night at no cost. This equals lower record sales and is becoming a problem of lower movie sales and software sales as well. People aren't trying new games like they could before the software copyright act by going to LAN parties and everyone sharing a copy to play, now everyone has to own a copy before they can play. While this may be great for the companies that make a few (a minimal few at best) extra sales on the games for the sake of a great party but for the most part, it is costing them the extra money that could be made by 10 people finding they liked the game enough to go out and buy it so they could play it whenever (and the next group of 10 they will introduce the game to) Gamers are a funny group and software copyright act or no, they are going to stick with the software and games that serve them best. The software copyright act was created in order to protect the rights of those writing and developing computer software. We want those who fill our lives with fun games, useful tools, and great ways to connect to friends and family to continue providing these great services and to get paid for the ones they've already provided. The software copyright act is one giant step in the right direction as far as I'm concerned.