“It’s mine!” I shout as someone ignores my copyright and reproduces my work as if they did it all themselves.
Copyright is meant to protect the original work of the creator, but today it is being ignored by many people. Although copyright infringement has existed from the ‘beginning of time’, it appears that the internet and computer use have really opened the doors to abuse.
How does your copyright protect you as creator? You can give someone else permission to use your work in many different ways, including copying the work per se or deriving other works from it.
You can allow them to perform or display the work publicly, or even sell/lend/lease copies to others.
As you can see from this short list, copyright is not exclusive to writing. It covers most types of intellectual works, including music, art, drama, photography, and literature.
If someone uses your work, they must follow the rules of copyright or be in violation of the law.
The rules of copyright, although strict with severe penalties, have a loophole that many people claim: fair use. When you review a book, report the news, write scholarly reports, etc., you are allowed to use small portions of a work.
The problem here is that the number of words, lines of a poem, bars of music, and so on have not been absolutely defined by the courts, so every fair use case is individual. If you use too much material, a source citation will not substitute for getting written permission.
My recommendation: if you are planning to utilize ‘fair use’, only take an extremely small portion of the work and definitely cite the source. Better yet, don’t use someone else’s work, regardless.
You will benefit by being very careful with fair use.
Think of copyright this way: you are a writer, a creator, pulling thoughts from your mind and research to produce a unique work. This creative process takes time, even years.
How would you feel if, after creating this very special work, you open a book review site and find that your entire book has been copied and claimed by someone else? Mad as a wet hen??? You bet.
On the other side of copyright, be very careful if you wish to use part of someone else’s work.
I had a plagiarist many years ago who told me, “Well, I copied that paragraph from X book on a notecard so now it is my work.” WRONG.
You must ALWAYS cite your source and recognize the real author. Respect other writers and their works, and cite properly.
Another piece of advice: if you find that your work has been plagiarized and you have absolute proof of it, consult an intellectual property lawyer immediately.
You need to go right to a lawyer who specializes in protection of copyright because of the complexity of these types of cases, and then be prepared for a very bumpy ride. Fighting a thief is never easy.
If you don’t know anything about copyright or if you wish to refresh your knowledge (highly recommended), consult this government website:
This is an exceptionally good website that covers just about anything you want to know about copyright, registering your work, or any other facts about protecting unique creations.