08 Jan 2018

If You Read One Article About Copyright, Read This One

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Make a Living as a Professional Self-Published AuthorCopyright is a Federal law designed to protect the creative works of authors, designers, and artists. This law protects writings, art, sculpture, sound recordings, movies and films, graphics, architecture design, and even choreography. It does not matter if the work has been published or not, and there is no requirement, legally, to file a notice with the copyright office. The work is protected as soon as it is created. You do need to file with the copyright office before you can sue for infringement.

However, copyright law does not protect ideas, procedures, processes, systems, methods of operation, concepts, principles or discovery. For example, if you wrote a book about a new method of building houses, the book itself is protected by law. The method of building houses it not protected.

The Berne Convention provides copyright protection in many countries of the world. The laws vary from country to country, so you will need to examine the specifics for any country you are concerned about.

How To Copyright Something

Generally, it is a good idea to file a copy of your work with the copyright office of the country of publication. The U.S. Copyright office, which is a department of the Library of Congress, accepts submissions in the United States.

The author or creator of the work owns the copyright. If the work was created on a “work for hire” basis, then the person who hired the creator is the owner. The owner has full rights over the work, including publication, modification, distribution, and selling. The copyright owner may authorize the work for other media. For example, if you write a book you can sell the movie rights to the work while retaining the rights on other media.

Derivative works are also protected by copyright. In other words, if you write an article and someone writes another article that is the same as yours with a few words changed, your copyright has been violated and you can file a lawsuit. A photograph which has been manipulated also violates copyright law, as does a YouTube clip which includes major scenes from a film.

You don’t have to include a notice that a work is copyrighted. However, it is a good idea to do so, as it demonstrates your claim. To note your rights, include a notice in the following format:

Copyright © [dates] by [author or owner]

For example:

Copyright © 2015 by Richard G Lowe Jr

The letter C in parenthesis is not the same as the symbol © and is not enforceable. Generally, the phrase “All Rights Reserved” is not needed in most countries in the world. In print, the notice is usually included in the manuscript. In photos and movies, it may be included in the actual image or as part of the metadata.

The article 10 Big Myths about copyright explained describes several myths on the subject and goes a long way to correct many of the misconceptions in this area.

What Is Fair Use?

An exception is known as the Fair Use doctrine. What this means excerpts of a work may be copied if the use is “fair”. The law is deliberately vague, but generally you can include short quotes from a book, a thumbnail image of a photograph, or a few seconds from a movie in your work. The concept is you can copy material from a copyrighted work in order to comment upon, criticize, or parody it.

Some examples of fair use include:

  • Quoting an author in a book review.
  • Including a few lines from a song in a review about that song or music in general.
  • Copying a paragraph or two for use in a lesson.
  • Summarizing a report for a news article.
  • Including a thumbnail of a photo in a review about that photo.

It is good form to include a citation naming your source whenever you include quotes or material.

In a parody, which is a work that ridicules another work, imitates it in a comic way. A great example is the Everything wrong with series of movie reviews on YouTube. Works of this sort can use a great deal more material from the original.

All authors must understand their rights and responsibilities under the law in order to ensure their works are protected.


Richard Lowe Jr

Richard Lowe Jr

Owner and Senior Writing at The Writing King
Richard is the Owner and Senior Writer for The Writing King, a bestselling author, and ghostwriter. He's written and published 63 books, ghostwritten 20+ books, as well as hundreds of blog articles.
Richard Lowe Jr


Author of Focus on LinkedIn, Safe Computing, Surviving Disasters, Help! My Boss is Whacko!, Insider Secrets from a Professional Ghostwriter and many others
I liked a @YouTube video https://t.co/qcMv30MFL0 If Dating was like Who Wants to be a Millionaire | Comedy Sketch - 10 hours ago

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