What is a Copyright?

A copyright is a form of protection for intellectual property that grants certain privileges to a copyright holder.  As the name implies, the copyright grants the right to produce to copies of a creative work.  Under United States Copyright Law, a copyright holder is granted certain exclusive rights to their creation including:

  • The right to reproduce the work
  • The right to create derivative works based upon the original
  • The right to distribute copies of the work by sale, rental, lease, or lending
  • The right to perform or display an audio or visual work publicly

What is Fair Use?

The exclusive rights of a copyright holder are tempered by a Doctrine of Fair Use which defines four guiding principles for determining if a use of a copyrighted material is fair:

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work

What is Copyright Infringement?

Copyright Infringement occurs when a copyright holder’s exclusive rights are violated by another in excess of fair use.  For example, it is a violation of copyright to take a musical work for which you are not the copyright holder and produce a second copy for someone else to use.

Copyright Infringement has become a major concern in the United States since the distribution of digital copies of music and video became common via peer-to-peer applications from which the copyright holders do not receive revenue.