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It Pays To Copyright ©

What is a Copyright?

A copyright protects the writings of an author against copying. Literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works are included within the protection of the copyright law. A copyright protects the form of expression rather than the subject matter.

Copyrights can protect originators of both designs and written materials such as: books, packaging, jewelry, trade dress, brochures, catalogs, drawings, pamphlets, computer programs, clothing, video taped materials, and a variety of literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works.

A copyright protects the creation of an author against copying. A copyright protects the form of expression rather than the subject matter. However, copyright law allows for "fair use" of previously published material for research, education, news or critical purposes. Four of the main factors a court of law may take into consideration when determining "fair use" include:

  1. Was the material used for monetary gain or for non profit purposes?
  2. Did you make one copy of an interesting article for your own reference? Or did you make 100 copies to include in a publication for sale and charge a substantial fee?
  3. What is the nature of the work you copied?
  4. Was the item originally intended for public view? If a private letter is printed in a local newspaper for everyone to read, the original sender could sue you!
  5. How much of the copyrighted material did you use?
  6. Any amount of direct quotation can be risky. A magazine was sued and lost a copyright case where they quoted 300 words from a 200,000 word book.
  7. What are the commercial consequences of using the material protected by copyright law?

If you hand out four chapters of a computer manual during a seminar, you might be able to claim you were using the material for educational purposes. However, it is highly likely a judge would consider the potential loss of revenue the book publisher faces as a more important factor.

Given these considerations, how can you use copyrighted material and avoid being sued?

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