Understanding Copyrights

Billie Hillier

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We’re going to delve into the world of copyrights. It’s an essential topic to understand, especially if you’re producing or using creative work.

So, let’s break it down to the basics.

I am NOT an attorney and if you have any questions about copyrights and the law, consult an intellectual property attorney.


A copyright is a form of legal protection provided to the authors of “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available both for published and unpublished works.

Copyrights give creators exclusive rights to their work, providing the opportunity to control how their work is used and distributed. It also allows creators to monetize their work, either by selling it directly or licensing the use to others.

In many jurisdictions, including the United States, copyright protection is automatic from the moment of creation. You don’t need to register it or even put a copyright notice on it, though these steps can provide additional legal benefits.

As a copyright holder, you have the exclusive right to:

  1. Reproduce the work
  2. Prepare derivative works based upon the work
  3. Distribute copies of the work to the public
  4. Perform the work publicly
  5. Display the work publicly

The duration of copyright varies by country. In the U.S., for works created after January 1, 1978, the copyright lasts for the author’s life plus an additional 70 years.

Copyright infringement occurs when someone uses a copyrighted work without the permission of the copyright holder. It’s essential to always seek permission before using someone else’s copyrighted work.

Fair Use

Fair use is a legal doctrine that allows limited use of copyrighted material without requiring permission from the rights holders. It applies in specific situations like criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research.

Understanding copyright is critical for anyone who creates or uses creative work. It helps protect your rights as a creator and helps you avoid infringing on the rights of others.

As with any legal matter, when in doubt, it’s always a good idea to seek professional legal advice.

Keep creating and respecting copyrights!

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