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Copyright FAQs: Lake Perriguey, Esq.
Bradley J. Woodworth & Associates, P.C.

What is a copyright?
Copyright is the federally protect right of an owner (often the creator) of an original work to prevent others from copying the work without permission. The copyright owner has the exclusive right to allow others to copy a work for almost any purpose. Copyright is a right originating from the United States Constitution. It vests in the creator of an original work at the moment it is fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Therefore, the work does not need to be registered with the Copyright Office or sport the © symbol, to be copyrighted.

Why copyright?
The copyright is a monopoly that vests in the creator of a work for his or her life, plus 70 years as an incentive for creative people and publishers to create and to disseminate new works to enrich our culture. After the copyright expires, the work enters the public domain for all to use freely.

Can I copy the artwork if I don't sell it?
No. The copyright owner has the exclusive right to allow anyone else to copy the artwork. Even if you're making a copy for your own personal use, you must obtain permission, or a license, from the owner.

Can I ever use the artwork without permission? What is fair use?
Fair use of a copyrighted work is a legal concept allowing a person to use copyrighted work for very limited purposes such as for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. There is no specific number of words, lines, or parts of an image that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.

There are four factors used to decide whether a particular use of a copyrighted work is a fair use: (1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a 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. 17 U.S.C. 107.

Can I use the work as long as I name the artist?
No. The copyright owner retains the exclusive right to allow the production of even one copy. You can not make a copy of the artist¹s work unless he/she grants a license.

When will the artwork enter the public domain or be free to use?
The copyright becomes public property 70 years after the death of the author. Until that time, you must obtain a license to make any copy or derivative work.

Is copyright infringement a crime?

At the very least, copyright infringement creates civil liability for damages, lost profits, and attorney fees. It may also be a federal felony or misdemeanor, depending on the intent and the amount and value of works infringed.

If you require professional assistance or advice regarding copyrights, please consider working with attorney Lake Perriguey. He may be contacted at lake@woodworthlaw.com