Fair Use is defined as the right to use copyrighted work without permission or without making payment to the owner. Copyright law provides for the fair use of another’s work without infringing on his copyright. How much can you copy from a source and stay within fair use?
The law is designed to be vague. If you are copying a magazine article, you can probably copy a paragraph or two. Also, you can probably copy several paragraphs from a book without infringing on copyright law. Be careful though not to copy the essence of something in the book. Poems and songs can only be copied without paying a high fee if they are in public domain. If a song is currently popular, use only the title. Titles are not copyrightable, but if a book is in print, you cannot title a new one by that name. Capitalize trademarks (Xerox, Kleenex) to avoid problems there or, better yet, use the words “photocopy” or “tissue” instead. For detailed information on copyright law, see my previous blog series on copyright law.
Always give the authors you are quoting credit for their material, even if you are within fair use and aren’t required to obtain their permission to use it. Cite your source within the text of your article or book or in an endnote.
The copyright registration is effective on the date of the receipt in the Copyright Office. For the material written after January 1, 1978, your copyright lasts for seventy years after your death. For manuscripts you wrote before that date, your copyright is for twenty-eight years plus a renewal for forty-seven more for a total of seventy-five years.
Once a copyright expires, the work goes into public domain. The public may use it at no cost at that point as long as the copyright isn’t picked up and re-registered by your heirs.
Also, public domain only applies to the original work. If material is revised or updated, it may not be in public domain. So be sure to check your sources before quoting information.
If you need information or guidance on legal matters, such as disputes over the ownership of a copyright, suits against possible infringers, the procedure for getting a work published, or the method of obtaining royalty payments, it may be necessary to consult an attorney. Although the Copyright Office may be able to answer your questions. See previous blog for telephone numbers.
However if you are publishing a book with a publishing house, they will obtained your copyright information for you. It is important that the material you submit, for any of your writing, is your final copy. This concludes our series on copyright law.
Most magazines are copyrighted, and their copyright doubly protects your personal copyright. Newspapers are seldom copyrighted, although syndicated columns are protected. Government publications are not copyrighted either. If you write a book, the publisher will register your copyright; but make sure they register it in your name, not the name of the publishing house.
An application for copyright registration contains three essential elements: A completed application form, a nonrefundable filing fee, and a nonreturnable copy or copies of work or works being registered and “deposited” with the Copyright Office. You can register as many of your articles, stories, and poems as you like under the same copyright, as long as all the material is sent to the Copyright Office at the same time.
Here are the options for registering your copyright, beginning with the fastest and most cost-effective method. Option 1 – Online Registration: through the electronic Copyright Office (eCO) is the preferred way to register literary works. The filing fee is $35. See www.copyright.gov and select register a copyright.
Option 2: You can register using fill-in forms, and the charge is $85.
The hotline number to request forms or information is 202-287-8700.
For copyright claim forms call 202-287-9100 and leave a message.
What is a copyright? A copyright is a way to protect something you create, whether writing, painting, or drawing. A copyright gives you four specific rights:
- Copy the work.
- Take excerpts to use elsewhere.
- Sell selected rights to the work and make money from it.
- Perform or display the work.
What can you copyright? Anything that is your original work: articles, poems, stories, pictures, songs, grocery lists. Anything you write down can be copyrighted except ideas, concepts, and titles. Anything regarding the expression of ideas can be copyrighted.
Since the laws were changed in 1978, you do not have to register your work with the copyright office to hold a copyright on it. Once your original material comes off your printer or pen, you own the copyright on it. If someone plagiarizes your work, however, and you want to sue him for copyright infringement, then you need to register your work with the copyright office in Washington, D.C.