Why I Post Copyright Issues – September 28, 2020

Standard Disclaimer:

I am not an attorney and any comments I post are not intended, nor should they be construed, as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please consult a legal expert who is familiar with the area of legal expertise you need.

There is too much bad information on copyright out there. I cover a number of specific items that I see raised by people who haven’t studied copyright.

I am not a copyright attorney, but I spent 2 years before I made my first post studying copyright law. Shortly after reviewing copyright law, I found a blogger who made the mistake of assuming numerous things about copyright without reviewing the law. It went to court and the attorney representing the plaintiff made a deal. The dollar amount wasn’t revealed, but the blogger either settled for too much or took a great deal.

First, nowhere in U. S. Copyright law does putting something online immediately put it in the public domain. I suspect some people who haven’t read copyright law think it does.

Copyright lawsuits happen very often. They often include agreements not to disclose how much was paid to the plaintiffs. You don’t hear about many of the lawsuits. In some cases, they are settled before a judgment is reached. In the blogger I mentioned, they settled after the case was in court, but before a judge reached a decision.

Citing the source only protects you from additional potential costs for plagiarism. It doesn’t mean you can copy the whole or a large part of the article without getting permission from the copyright holder. I see this excuse mentioned a lot. You should cite the source.

Fair use is a very limited exception; many countries do not have fair use exceptions. Also, if you are using a blog, vlog, or other website that has ads including donation links if you are a nonprofit, you will be hardpressed to claim nonprofit use. Along these lines is the claim that you can use a certain percentage or a specific amount of words or pages and it falls under fair use. Nowhere in U. S. copyright law does it clearly say how much you can use and it fall under fair use. In most cases, a judge will make a determination based on that.

I often see YouTubers claiming fair use when it’s definitely not fair use. If you think it’s fair use, best to hire a copyright attorney who is familiar with fair use to see if it may fall under fair use. Be aware a judge may not agree with your copyright attorney’s opinion on the subject.

Another fallacy is the “poor man’s copyright”https://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-general.html#poorman

The practice of sending a copy of your own work to yourself is sometimes called a “poor man’s copyright.” There is no provision in the copyright law regarding any such type of protection, and it is not a substitute for registration.


In this post Obituaries and Copyright Law – September 26, 2020, I talked about owning a photo doesn’t mean you own the copyright to the photo. That’s another common mistaken idea.

I encourage people to do your own research on copyright law. In some cases, the U. S. Copyright Officehttps://copyright.gov/ doesn’t give advice, but it has plenty of resources to figure out some things on your own.

It’s important to realize basic copyright in the U. S. has serious limits on what you can do if your work is infringed. You need to do full registration for maximum benefit:

Registration is recommended for a number of reasons. Many choose to register their works because they wish to have the facts of their copyright on the public record and have a certificate of registration. Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney’s fees in successful litigation. Finally, if registration occurs within five years of publication, it is considered prima facie evidence in a court of law. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Copyright Registration” and Circular 38b, Highlights of Copyright Amendments Contained in the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA), on non-U.S. works.


About Wichita Genealogist

Originally from Gulfport, Mississippi. Live in Wichita, Kansas now. I suffer Bipolar I, ultra-ultra rapid cycling, mixed episodes. Blog on a variety of topics - genealogy, DNA, mental health, among others. Let's collaborateDealspotr.com
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