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Copyright Law

 

All images created by Members of PAPA are protected under the copyright laws of the United States and other countries. Any unauthorized reproduction or usage of these images constitutes a violation of applicable law and is subject to severe civil and criminal penalties.
(17 USC - Sec. 501 & 504)

Images may not be copied, photocopied, reproduced, translated, or converted to any electronic or machine readable form in whole or in part without prior written approval of the copyright owner. If you are interested in using one of the images, please contact the listed photographer for written authorization.

For more information on U.S. copyright law, visit the United States Copyright Office official website.

 

Copyright Law - Frequently Asked Questions

What is the basis for Copyright Law?

What is the purpose of Copyright law?

What rights are granted to the copyright holder?

How can those rights be transferred?

What can be copyrighted?

Is there anything that cannot be copyrighted?

How do I know if something is copyrighted?

Does a photograph need the copyright notice on it?

How long does the copyright last?

What does it mean when a work is in the "Public Domain"?

What about the photographs that you put on the Internet - are they protected under copyright law?

What is the doctrine of "Fair Use"?

If I do artwork on one of your photographs, then I can copyright that new work for myself, right?

Is copyright infringement a crime, or a civil matter?

What are the penalties for copyright infringement?

 

What is the basis for Copyright Law?

Copyright Law in the United States finds its roots in the U.S. Constitution. Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution states in part that "The Congress shall have Power ...To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries". Currently, the enabling provisions for U.S. Copyright law are found in The Copyright Act of 1976 as amended (title 17, U.S. Code) 

International Copyright protection is afforded to authors by United States participation in two global, multilateral copyright treaties--the Universal Copyright Convention (UCC) and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.

 

What is the purpose of Copyright Law?

Copyright is a form of personal property protection provided by The Copyright Act of 1976 (title 17, U.S. Code) to the authors of "original works of authorship" including literary, dramatic, and musical works; pantomimes and choreography; pictorial, graphic and sculptural works; audio-visual works; sound recordings; and architectural works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works. An original work of authorship is eligible for copyright protection as soon as it is fixed in a tangible form.

The main purpose of copyright law is to promote the progress of science and useful arts, to provide protection of the author's right to obtain commercial benefit from valuable work, and the protection of the author's general right to control how a work is used. 

 

What rights are granted to the copyright holder?

Section 106 of the Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following: 

  • To reproduce the copyrighted work in copies 
  • To prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work; 
  • To distribute copies of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other methods; 
  • To perform the copyrighted work publicly
  • To display the copyrighted work publicly.

Anyone else wishing to use the work in these ways must have the permission of the author. Mere ownership of a book, photograph, painting, or other protected work, does not give the possessor these rights. The law provides that transfer of ownership of any material object that embodies a protected work does not of itself convey any rights in the copyright.

 

How can those rights be transferred?

Any or all of the exclusive rights, or any subdivision of those rights, of the copyright owner may be transferred, but the transfer of exclusive rights is not valid unless that transfer is in writing and signed by the owner of the rights conveyed (or such owner's duly authorized agent). Transfer of a right on a nonexclusive basis does not require a written agreement. Mere ownership of a copy of a copyrighted work, does not of itself convey any rights in the copyright

Copyright is a personal property right, and it is subject to the various state laws and regulations that govern the ownership, inheritance, or transfer of personal property. 

 

What can be copyrighted?

Copyright protects "original works of authorship" that are fixed in a tangible form of expression. The fixation need not be directly perceptible, so long as it may be communicated with the aid of a machine or device. Copyrightable works include the following categories:

  • literary works; 
  • musical works, including any accompanying words; 
  • dramatic works, including any accompanying music; 
  • pantomimes and choreographic works; 
  • pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works; (see examples)
  • motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
  • sound recordings; and
  • architectural works

These categories should be viewed quite broadly: for example, computer programs and most "compilations" can be registered as "literary works", while
original "pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works," includes two-dimensional and three-dimensional works of fine, graphic, and applied art. The following is a list of examples of such works: 

  • Advertisements, commercial prints, labels; 
  • Artificial flowers and plants, floral arrangements; 
  • Artwork applied to clothing or other useful articles; 
  • Bumper stickers, decals, stickers; 
  • Cartographic works: maps, globes, relief models; 
  • Cartoons, comic strips; 
  • Collages; 
  • Dolls, toys; 
  • Drawings, paintings, murals; 
  • Enamel works; 
  • Fabric, floor, and wall covering designs; 
  • Games, puzzles; 
  • Greeting cards, postcards, stationery; 
  • Holograms, computer and laser artwork; 
  • Jewelry designs; 
  • Models; 
  • Mosaics; 
  • Needlework and craft kits; 
  • Original prints: engravings, etchings, serigraphs, silk screen prints, woodblock prints; 
  • Patterns for sewing, knitting, crochet, needlework; 
  • Photographs, photomontages; 
  • Posters; 
  • Record jacket artwork or photography; 
  • Relief and intaglio prints; 
  • Reproductions: lithographs, collotypes; 
  • Sculpture: carvings, ceramics, figurines, maquettes, molds, relief sculptures; 
  • Stained glass designs; 
  • Stencils, cut-outs; 
  • Technical drawings, architectural drawings or plans, blueprints, diagrams, mechanical drawings; 
  • Weaving designs, lace designs, tapestries. 

 

Is there anything that cannot be copyrighted?

Several categories of material are generally not eligible for Federal copyright protection. These include among others: 

  • Works that have not been fixed in a tangible form of expression. For example: choreographic works that have not been notated or recorded, or improvisational speeches or performances that have not been written or recorded. 
  • Titles, names, short phrases, and slogans; familiar symbols or designs; mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, or coloring; mere listings of ingredients or contents. 
  • Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries, or devices, as distinguished from a description, explanation, or illustration. 
  • Works consisting entirely of information that is common property and containing no original authorship. For example: standard calendars, height and weight charts, tape measures and rulers, and lists or tables taken from public documents or other common sources. 

 

 

How do I know if something is copyrighted? When does a photograph become copyrighted?

Copyright is secured automatically when the work is created, and a work is "created" when it is fixed in a copy for the first time. "Copies" are material objects from which a work can be read or visually perceived either directly or with the aid of a machine or device, such as books, manuscripts, sheet music, film, videotape, or microfilm. If a work is prepared over a period of time, the part of the work that is fixed on a particular date constitutes the created work as of that date. This means, among other things, that a work does not need to be published or registered in order to be protected by copyright.

 

Does a photograph need the copyright notice on it?

For works first published on and after March 1, 1989, use of the copyright notice is optional, though highly recommended. Before March 1, 1989, the use of the notice was mandatory on all published works, and any work first published before that date must bear a notice or risk loss of copyright protection. 

Use of the notice is recommended because it informs the public that the work is protected by copyright, identifies the copyright owner, and shows the year of first publication. Furthermore, in the event that a work is infringed, if the work carries a proper notice, the court will not allow a defendant to claim "innocent infringement"--that is, that he or she did not realize that the work is protected.

The notice should contain all of the following three elements: 

  1. The symbol © (the letter in a circle), or the word "Copyright" or the abbreviation "Copr."; and
  2. The year of first publication of the work.
  3. The name of the owner of copyright in the work, or an abbreviation by which the name can be recognized, or a generally known alternative designation of the owner. 
  4. © 2007 Photographer's Name
    or
    Copyright 2007 Photographer's Name

 

How long does the copyright last?

How long a copyright lasts depends in large part on when the work in question was created. Depending on whether the work was created before or after January 1, 1978 could have substantial affect on the life span of the copyright. 

 A work that is created on or after January 1, 1978, is automatically protected from the moment of its creation, and is ordinarily given a term enduring for the author's life, plus an additional 50 years after the author's death. 

Works that were created but not published or registered for copyright before January 1, 1978, have been automatically brought under the statute and are now given Federal copyright protection. The duration of copyright in these works will generally be computed in the same way as for works created on or after January 1, 1978: the life-plus-50 or 75/100-year terms will apply to them as well. The law provides that in no case will the term of copyright for works in this category expire before December 31, 2002, and for works published on or before December 31, 2002, the term of copyright will not expire before December 31, 2027. 

Under the law in effect before 1978, copyright was secured either on the date a work was published or on the date of registration if the work was registered in unpublished form. In either case, the copyright endured for a first term of 28 years from the date it was secured. During the last (28th) year of the first term, the copyright was eligible for renewal. The current copyright law has extended the renewal term from 28 to 47 years for copyrights that were subsisting on January 1, 1978, making these works eligible for a total term of protection of 75 years. 

Public Law 102-307, enacted on June 26, 1992, amended the Copyright Act of 1976 to extend automatically the term of copyrights secured from January 1, 1964, through December 31, 1977 to the further term of 47 years. For more detailed information on the copyright term, read Circulars 15, 15a and 15t published by the Copyright Office. For information on how to search the Copyright Office records concerning the copyright status of a work, read Circular 22

 

What does it mean when a work is in the "Public Domain"?

Works in the 'public domain' may be freely used in any manner for any purpose. This category includes:

  • Works with expired or lost copyright; 
  • Works published before 1923
  • Works that are not eligible for copyright by nature i.e. ideas, facts, titles, etc.;
  • Works produced by a federal government employee in the course of his/her job;

Works clearly donated to the public domain (Note: Placing a copyrighted work on the Internet does NOT inject it into the public domain).

 

What about the photographs that you put on the Internet - are they protected under copyright law? 

Accessing materials on the Internet is really not very different (in a copyright sense) from accessing them through more traditional routes such as libraries. It's just a lot easier technologically and generally more fun! But keep in mind that most material found on the Internet is protected by copyright whether or not it has a copyright notice. Just because it has been posted on the Internet does not mean that the copyright holder has donated it to the public domain or that there is any sort of implied license to make any use of it that you wish.

 

What is the doctrine of "Fair Use"?

One of the rights accorded to the owner of copyright is the right to reproduce or to authorize others to reproduce the work in copies. This right is subject to certain limitations found in sections 107 through 120 of the Copyright Act. One of the more important limitations is the doctrine of "fair use." Under the fair use doctrine, it is permissible to use limited portions of a work, for purposes such as commentary, criticism, news reporting, and scholarly reports. There are no legal rules permitting the use of specific number of words counts, a certain number of musical notes, or percentages of a work. Whether a particular use qualifies as fair use depends on all the circumstances.

The law sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair: (1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; (2) the nature of the copyrighted work; (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

 

If I do artwork on one of your photographs, then I can copyright that new work for myself, right?

 One of the rights granted to the copyright owner is "To prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work". A derivative work is loosely defined as any work that includes significant material from a preexisting work. Only the owner of copyright in a work has the right to prepare, or to authorize someone else to create, a new version of that work. Accordingly, you cannot claim copyright, no matter how much you change it, unless you have the owner's consent. 

 

Is copyright infringement a crime, or a civil matter?

It's always at least a civil matter. Section 501(b) of the Copyright Act details the mechanisms by which an owner of a copyright may file a civil suit .

However, under certain circumstances, it may also be a federal crime. Section 506a of the Copyright Act provides that copyright infringement is subject to criminal prosecution if infringement is willful and for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain. If the offense consists of the reproduction or distribution, during any 180-day period, of 10 or more copies having a retail value of more than $2,500, the offense is a felony; otherwise, the offense is a misdemeanor.

Copyright infringement is a strict liability offense. That means, you don't actually have to know you're infringing in order to be guilty of infringement. As they say, "Ignorance of the law is no defense".

Liability for copyright infringement isn't necessarily limited to the direct infringer. One who, with knowledge of the infringing activity, induces, causes, or materially contributes to the infringing conduct of another, may be held liable as a 'contributory infringer'. One who has the right and ability to supervise the infringing activity and who also has a direct financial interest in the activity, may be held liable as a 'vicarious infringer'.

 

What are the penalties for copyright infringement?

Penalties for felony and misdemeanor criminal copyright infringement are detailed in Title 18 USC, Section 2319, and states that "whoever violates section 506(a) of Title 17 shall be shall be imprisoned not more than 5 years, or fined in the amount set forth in this title, or both. For a misdemeanor conviction the infringer shall be imprisoned not more than 1 year, or fined in the amount set forth in this title, or both.

 

 

 

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