This Blog is written by Anwesha Kundu from Amity University, Kolkata. Edited by Karan Dutt.
Copyrights protect works of authorship, such as photos, videos, writings, music, movies, software, and works of art that have been tangibly expressed. AEON Law provides counseling, registration, agreements, acquisition, and litigation services to protect and enforce your copyrights. We work with clients ranging from software and technology companies to artists, songwriters, and chocolate makers. The law of copyright is exciting and complex. Our attorneys have extensive experience navigating the tricky and sometimes unfriendly waters of the United States’ and international copyright laws.
Importance– Internet has become the foremost medium to gather information for any purpose. It is used to find information by students for educational purposes (like writing projects, notes, etc.), by professionals for market research, by music lovers to listen to, or download music, and by people who access the web for a host of other reasons. Earlier, books were the main source to gain information. However, in recent times, people are relying more on the Internet for it. This major shift can be attributed to the fact that Internet is quick, whatever information one wants is just a click away, and most importantly, it’s free.
Plagiarism has become common, with increasing popularity of the Internet. People who use the Internet, often do not know, if it is protected by copyright laws. They think that just because the information is available for free, it can be copied. However, this is not true. We are aware of the fact that every book has a copyright, which is owned by the writer of the book, and copying any content from it is an offense.
In the same way, material published on the Internet is protected by certain copyright laws, which prohibit the readers or whoever accesses the Internet, from plagiarizing the content. Copyright laws apply to stories, poems, email, articles, images, music, videos, in short anything that appears on the web, even if there is no appropriate copyright signature on that particular web page.
Every person who uses the Internet should be aware of the copyright laws that safeguard the material found on it. Before we know the laws, it is important to understand what copyright is all about. Stephen Fishman, in his book, ‘The Copyright Handbook’ defines copyright as a legal device that provides the creator of a work of art or literature, or a work that conveys information or ideas, the right to control how the work is used. If any work is plagiarized for commercial gain, it is considered to be an offense under copyright laws.
Only original work by an individual can be protected under copyright laws. Even an e-mail that one receives, is protected under copyright laws and an individual does not have the right to forward it.
Copyright laws on the Internet emphasize that a work of an individual, published on the web, should not be replicated anywhere else by another individual. Any original material from the Internet cannot be taken and reproduced word for word. If one wants to copy any material from a site, it is necessary to seek permission of the site owner or the author. If one is copying directly from a person’s work, it is necessary to acknowledge that fact through citations. Plagiarizing any material on the Internet comes under the purview of civil law and a person can be heavily penalized for it.
However, there are some limitations, even to copyright laws, which are collectively termed as fair use. It allows a person to use information available on the Internet, with some restrictions. Under the criteria of fair use, although it is illegal to copy, one can use ideas and also things that come under the public domain like facts, slogans, short phrases, names, and words. When a person uses material from the Internet for education or work, it comes under the domain of fair use. But if someone uses the material for publishing it with his name as the author, it is illegal. A new work will not be considered to be plagiarized, if it is restructured by only taking the ideas and also when the target audience is different from that of the original work.
As people are unaware of copyright laws, they are also ignorant of the fact that plagiarism can be caught. Technology has advanced to such a great extent that it has introduced a variety of techniques to get hold of plagiarized material, and hence people should not think that no one will know if they plagiarize anything from the Internet.
AIM AND EFFECT OF COPYRIGHT LAW
The purpose of the Copyright Act of 1976 is to safeguard the title in original works of authorship now known or later developed, and is fixed in any tangible medium of expression, for the purpose of reproduction, or communication in another form, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. Such original works shall include the following categories:
1. literary works;
2. musical works, including any accompanying words;
3. dramatic works, including any accompanying music;
4. pantomimes and choreographic works;
5. pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works;
6. motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
7. sound recordings; and
8. architectural works.
Copyright protection for an original work of authorship does not extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, not considering the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.
Copyright may apply to a wide range of creative, intellectual, scientific, or artistic forms, or “works”. Specifics may vary by jurisdiction, but these can include poems, theses, plays, other literary works, movies, dances, musical compositions, audio recordings, paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, software, radio and television and broadcasts.
The direct effect of the copyright law is to secure a fair return for an author’s creative labor. However, the final intention of the law is to stimulate artistic creativity for the general public good. It ensures reasonable return to authors and inventors. The law also establishes incentives for development, with distribution, which seeks to encourage learning, progress, and development.
1. Rogers vs. Koons – Photographer Art Rogers shot a photograph of a couple holding a line of puppies in a row and sold it for use in greeting cards and similar products. Internationally, renowned artist Jeff Koons in the process of creating an exhibit on the banality of everyday items, ran across Rodgers’ photograph and used it to create a set of statues based on the image.
Koons sold several of these structures, making a significant profit. Upon discovering the copy, Rodgers sued Koons for copyright. Koons responded by claiming fair use by parody.
Outcome- The court found the similarities between the 2 images too close, and that a “typical person” would be able to recognize the copy. Koon’s defense was rejected under the argument that he could have used a more generic source to make the same statement — without copying Rogers’ work. Koons was forced to pay a monetary settlement to Rodgers.
Significance-This is one of those famous cases that encompassed a larger issue in the art world, the issue of appropriation art. Can you build upon another’s work to create your own original piece? And if you do so, does that constitute derivative work?
It also brought up the issue of photography as art, was photography just a documentation of the world, or is it a creative and artistic product? Neither of these issues was entirely answered by the case, of course, but it has also become a reference used in many cases afterward.
2. The Associated Press vs. Fairey– Famous street artist Shephard Fairey created the Hope poster during President Obama’s first run for presidential election in 2008. The design rapidly became a symbol for Obama’s campaign, technically independent of the campaign but with its approval.
In January 2009, the photograph on which Fairey allegedly based the design was revealed by the Associated Press as one shot by AP freelancer Mannie Garcia — with the AP demanding compensation for its use in Fairey’s work. Fairey responded with the defense of fair use, claiming his work didn’t reduce the value of the original photograph.
Outcome- The artist and the AP press came to a private settlement in January 2011, part of which included a split in the profits for the work.
Significance- Though there wasn’t a court case and an actual verdict, this case created a lot of discourse around the value of work in these copyright battles. It’s unlikely that Garcia’s work could have ever reached the level of fame it did, if not for Fairey’s poster. Garcia himself stated he was “so proud of the photograph and that Fairey did what he did artistically with it, and the effect it has had,” but still had a problem with the fact that Fairey took the image without permission and without credit for it’s originator.
Use of the copyright notice, while not mandatory, s important 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 give any weight to a defendant’s claim of an innocent infringement (i.e., where the defendant claims that he or she did not realize that the work was protected by copyright)