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What is a copyright?

copyrightallrightsreservedCopyright law protects original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated.

Broken down, an author must have the following three requirements for a valid copyright:

  1. Original (independently created by the author);
  2. Be in a physical form (no matter how briefly in time); and
  3. Be the result of the author’s creative effort.

Copyrights do not protect facts or ideas.

A copyright attaches to the work immediately when the work has been fixed in a tangible form.

A valid copyright provides exclusive rights to the author to:

  • Make copies of the work;
  • Distribute the work (selling or donating);
  • Adapt the work (derivative works); and
  • Perform and display the work.

Giving the author attribution is not sufficient.  The author gets to decide if, when, and how you can use the work.

Now what?  You want to use a video, song, poem, or other artistic work that you found on the internet; can you legally use it?  Without more information, you cannot determine if the work is copyright protected.  The best idea is to assume the work is protected, find the author, and get written permission.  You might also be able to use a portion of the work under the “Fair Use” doctrine.  I will write more about fair use in a future blog.