By Lauren Schatz, Amped Up Digital Guest Blogger

I don’t intend (nor do I have the qualifications) to lecture about Copyright Law or give legal advice*. I simply want to get you thinking about what material is copyrighted, what constitutes copyright infringement, and suggestions on how to legally use copyrighted material.  For anyone who is unfamiliar with copyright law, I urge you to check out the U.S. Copyright Office website or call a lawyer to learn more.

What material is copyrighted?

Some people assume that for a work to have copyright protection it must be registered, but according to the U.S. Copyright Office, “work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.” That being said, if a person wants to take legal action, they must register their work (including original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works) with the U.S. Copyright Office.

What is copyright infringement?

In layman’s terms, copyright infringement is using someone else’s original work without their consent.  Let me tell you, it’s more common than you think. Are you guilty?

Fan Fiction

Attention Trekkies, Harry Potter enthusiasts, and Lord of the Rings fanatics: Fan Fiction is technically a form of copyright infringement, but that’s not to say someone is going to sue you.

There is big debate over whether fan fiction is or is not copyright infringement, but ultimately it’s up to the courts to decide on a case-by-case basis.  Something to think about.

Why is this copyright infringement? Only the copyright holder has the right to prepare derivative works.

Copying Songs onto YouTube

Sorry YouTube user, adding, “I do not own the rights to this music” or “No copyright infringement intended” to your description isn’t going to cut it. Not only is this the most blatant form of copyright infringement, it’s like a car thief putting a sign on his stolen car that reads, “This isn’t really my car” or “I stole this car with nothing but good intentions.” 

Why is this copyright infringement? Only the copyright holder has the right to reproduce their work.

Presentations and Speeches

Excuse me Mr. CEO, but before you play LMFAO’s “I’m Sexy and I Know It” as you make your grand entrance to the podium before your next big speech, you better make sure you’ve paid the proper royalties.

Why is this copyright infringement? Only the Copyright holder has the right to perform that song publicly.

Our Advice

You know the phrase, “better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission,” When it comes to using someone else’s copyrighted material, crumble up this piece of advice and throw it in the recycling bin. We say, “It is better to ask than wind up with a copyright infringement lawsuit.”

Our advice, always get permission!  If you need music for a presentation or video, look to indie bands and artists, they’ll give you license to use their music for much cheaper than mainstream record labels.

If you need help finding music for your website, presentations, or videos give us a call, we’d be happy to help.



*The materials available in this article are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.