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Copyright 4 Educators (US)

Week 2

Tara Wheatland's picture
Sat, 2010-09-04 01:07

Week 2 

Goals: This week, you will learn the answers to the following questions: In whom does copyright subsist? What rights does a copyright owner have with respect to a copyrighted work?  And how can the owner enforce those rights?

  When we say that a person owns a “copyright” in a work, we mean that a person the right to do (or authorize other people to do) certain specific things with that work.  These specific rights are known as “exclusive rights” and they are set forth in 17 U.S.C. § 106.  If a person other than the copyright owner engages in any of these activities without the permission of the copyright owner (and without falling under any of the exceptions and limitations that will be introduced next week), that person has infringed the copyright.  Copyright owners can, in a court of law, obtain a number of different remedies for the infringement of their rights.  In some cases, a company, school, or other organization may be held liable for any infringing activities of its employees, users, or students--this is the doctrine known as "secondary liability" or "indirect liability" for copyright infringement.

A copyright is automatically obtained by the creator or author of an original work, as soon as that work is fixed in a tangible medium of expression.  If you write a novel, paint a painting, or compose a song, you will generally acquire the copyright in your creation.  The author does not have to register a copyright in the work or put a copyright notice on the work in order for the work to be protected by copyright (although there are some benefits to be had from registration and notice).  The situation regarding initial ownership is more complicated if you are an employee creating the work as part of your employment, if you were hired to create a particular work, or if there are multiple authors working together on a single work.  Although copyright initially "vests" in an author, that author may transfer or sell some or all of his or her exclusive rights to other persons.

Reading Assignment:

U.S. Copyright Basics, by the U.S. Copyright Office (will review some of last week's material re: scope of copyright)
The ABC of Copyright
, pp. 22-27, 36-43
Excerpts from Copyright for Librarians (Berkman Center)
17 U.S.C. §§ 106, 201, 202, 501-506
Wikipedia on civil remedies for copyright infringement in the U.S.

Additional Reading and Resources (optional):

Copyright Share/Share Alike: A Panel Discussion featuring Prof. Lawrence Lessig (Intelligent Agent/Eyebeam)