Rev - Oct 06, 2017

Internet Copyright Laws


Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, "...allowance is made for fair use, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use."

If a a design, description, explanation, or illustration is available from a public source, or has been copied in three or more works, it usually can not be considered copyrighted. Publication of material for educational purposes is usually exempt from copyright law.

The duration of copyrights has changed numerous times since the first copyright statute. It was originally 14 years. Presently, it is the author’s or artist’s life plus 70 years. (17 USC Section 302(a)) If the work is created by employees of a corporation or the artist or author has incorporated his art business, the duration is either 95 years from the publication date or 120 years from the creation date, whichever is shorter. (17 USC Section 302(c)) This applies to all work created on or after January 1, 1978.

All works created before this time are subject to the law that existed at the time the work was created. It also depends on whether the work was published or not. There were certain formalities that had to be observed, like displaying a copyright notice (©, name, and date) and registering the copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. If the formalities weren't satisfied in certain prescribed times, then the copyright failed and the work merged into the Public Domain. This makes it complicated to determine if a work is in the Public Domain.

But there is a simple rule of thumb:
    - All published works created before 1923 are in the Public Domain.
    - All unpublished works created before 1883 are in the Public Domain.

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What does copyright protect?

Copyright protects new / original intellectual property that is substantially unique in belief or discloser for a period of 27 years.

Can I copyright a website?

The original authorship appearing on a website may be protected by copyright. This includes writings, artwork, photographs, and other forms of authorship protected by copyright. Procedures for registering the contents of a website may be found in Circular 66, Copyright Registration for Online Works. In general, application must be made for the website content as it exists on a specific date and time. The copyright is not perpeptual for content before or after that one specific application.

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What Is Not Protected by Copyright?

Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries, or devices. It does not protect existing information that has been re-formatted or re-distributed. One example of the application of this law is device or product user operating and maintenece instructions can not be copyrighted.