In this lesson, you’re expected to:
– learn the basic requirements of a copyright
– understand how to protect a copyright
– discover the concepts of copyleft and copyright infringement

According to WIPO, “copyright (or author’s right) is a legal term used to describe the rights that creators have over their literary and artistic works.”
What is Copyrightable?
Requirements for Copyright

The requirements of a copyright are:

1) Originality
To be protected as copyright, the piece of work must be original. Work must be a “distinguishable variation” from what came before.

2) Fixation
Not only original, the work needs to be fixed in a “tangible medium of expression”, meaning it has been set in a form that can be perceived either directly or with the aid of a device.

An example of something that is not “fixed in a tangible medium of expression” is an improvisation speech that has not been written or recorded. To “fix” it, the author should record it. This is because copyright subsists in the expression of an idea and not in the idea itself.

Examples of copyrightable works are: 

 literary works such as novels, poems, plays, reference works, newspaper articles etc.
• computer programs and databases
• films, musical compositions, and choreography
• artistic works such as paintings, drawings, photographs, and sculptures
• architecture
• advertisements, maps, and technical drawings

It is all about creativity and it may vary a lot – in a photograph, for example, the angle of a camera, lighting, posing, selection and arrangement choices etc. may have a copyright protection.
Examples of non-copyrightable expressions are: 

• facts (copyright only protects the expression of ideas, not facts!)

• functional choices – something that is functional isn’t expressive (e.g., video from a security camera of a bank branch)

• method of operation – e.g., iPhone screen “Slide to Unlock”

• animals/nature cannot be considered authors.

Obtaining a copyright protection and its consequences

In countries where the Berne Convention standards apply (the majority of the world), copyright protection is obtained automatically with no need to register with any government office.

However, in some countries a voluntary registration of works is a condition to solve disputes over ownership or creation – e.g., the US.

Once an original idea has been reduced to a tangible form, several “exclusive rights”* attach to the holder of a copyright, such as:

• to produce copies of the work and to sell those;
• to import or export the work;
• to create derivative works (works that adapt the original work);
• to perform the work publicly; and
• to sell or cede these rights to others.

“Exclusive right” means that only the copyright holder is free to exercise those rights and others are prohibited from using the work without the holder’s permission.
Although copyright notice (“©, Name, Date, All Rights Reserved”) is not necessary, its prominent display does put others on notice that the work is copyrighted and can keep third parties from trying to avoid liability by asserting innocent infringement.
[Optional] Copyright Basics
Watch this 12-minute video to learn the basics of copyright:
Why promote and protect copyright?

Below are some reasons to justify copyright:

• Moral justification: copyright protects the creative investment of the author. As a consequence, he/she has a natural right to ownership of the results of his own work.

• Practical justification: this is its commercial utility. It is said that without such protection, authors will have no economic incentive to create.

• Social justification: only if authors profit from their copyrights will they be encouraged to disseminate their work to the public. Also, the limited term of copyright ensures the same work will be freely available to the public domain.

Authorship and Ownership

Authorship and ownership are not always the same.

 Author is the individual who has expended the necessary effort, skill, and labor to create the intellectual work.

 Owner is the one who possesses the economic rights regarding the intellectual work (not necessarily an individual).

The first owner of the copyright is usually the author but, as a property right (or more specifically an intellectual property right), copyright may be assigned to third parties – e.g., works created by employees over the course of employment.

Moral and Economic Rights

As a consequence, there is a distinction between moral and economic rights:

 Moral Right: it is personal to the author and protects his/her creative integrity and reputation as expressed through a work. It includes the right to be identified as the author of the intellectual work (the “paternity right”) and to protect the work from alteration, distortion, or mutilation (the “integrity right”).

• Economic Right: it protects the copyright holder’s economic interests and allows him/her to earn a profit by the direct or indirect exploitation of a work by means of copies of the work; distribution to the public; or performing, showing or playing the work in public.

NOTE: Unlike economic rights, moral rights are personal to the creator and cannot be transferred to someone else. Even if the author sells the economic rights of the work to someone else, he/she will retain its moral rights.

Some countries do not recognize moral rights. The US, for example, only has moral rights in works of fine art.

How long does a copyright last?

Regarding the author’s economic rights, in those countries that are members of the Berne Convention*, copyright protection should last at least 50 years after the creator’s death. However, longer periods of protection may be provided at the national level.

On the other hand, in jurisdictions where moral rights are recognized, it has a perpetual protection.

* The Berne Convention, is an international agreement governing copyright, which was first accepted in Berne, Switzerland, in 1886.
[Optional] How Does Copyright Law Work?
Watch this 3-minute video about copyright law:
Copyright infringement 
Copyright infringement occurs when a third party violates one or more of the copyright holder’s exclusive rights to a work without his/her permission.

The copyright holder is typically the work’s creator, a publisher or other business to which copyright has been assigned.

Exceptions to Copyright: The Permitted Acts

There are some situations in which public interest in using copyright works overrides the private interests of the copyright holder. The permitted acts are exceptions to the exclusive rights granted to the copyright holder and it may vary in different countries. They may include works with the purpose of:

• Non-commercial research and private study
• Criticism and review
• News reporting
• Public interest

What is Copyleft?

Copyleft is the practice of making creative works free, allowing people to freely distribute copies and modified versions of a work. It is mostly referred to as free software licenses.

The simplest way to make a work free is to put it in the public domain.

Famous Copyright Cases

1) Louis Vuitton (2007)

The fashion handbag maker, Louis Vuitton, filed a case against Haute Diggity Dog for trademark, trade dress and copyright infringement over a line of parody products entitled “Chewy Vuitton”. The court rejected the claim.

2) Napster, Inc. (2000)

Napster, the music file-sharing company was a revolutionary piece of sharing software, which allowed users to share any number of music files online. At its peak, the software had around 20 million users sharing files peer-to-peer.

A&M Records and other companies, filed a lawsuit accusing Napster of copyright infringement for allowing users to search and download MP3 files from other users’ computers. The judge ordered Napster to close its free file-sharing capacities and, after the decision, the company eventually declared bankruptcy.

[Optional] Copyright, Exceptions, and Fair Use
Watch this 11-minute video to learn more:
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