Thursday, March 22, 2012

Boise Attorneys, Idaho Lawyers - Business Law and Copyright

Business Law and Copyright
As a Boise Business Attorney, I often hear from creative people who have written a book, published a website or who paint pictures for a living and want to use these in conjunction with their business.  They have questions and concerns involving copyright issues.  Also, as a Boise Business Lawyer, I hear from people who are seeking to create an internet business and they their website might contain the work of other people and they want to know if they will be infringing upon copyright law.

What is a Copyright and How Does it Effect You?
Any creative work you make, such as a book, a website or a painting automatically has a copyright, even if you don't publish the work.  Your work will be protected for a specific duration of time and only you will have the rights to the work, unless you chose to share the rights with others.  However, simply having a copyright does not necessarily protect you from copyright infringement.  You can only sue a copyright infringer in a court of law and receive statutory damages if the work has been officially registered.  Say that I, as a Boise Divorce Attorney, wish to write a book on divorce in Idaho.  If I use my creative talents to produce that work but I don't take the step to register my book with the copyright office, I will not be able to sue another person or business for using my unique perspective on divorce.  While I do have other recourse against the party who infringes against me if I haven't registered my work, the recourse packs a whole lot less of a punch.

Internet Copyright Issues
Because the internet is relatively new, there is very little case law governing internet copyright infringement.  However, Title 17 of the United States Code still applies to the creation of a website.  The important thing about copyright law and the internet is to remember that you cannot take someone else's work and put it, whole cloth, on your website.  Using a practical example, let's consider my DUI website.  That website was created by me, a Boise Criminal Lawyer.  The thoughts, considerations and offers for help are my own creative work.  What if someone took the contents of my website and put it on their own website?  Suddenly my work is not unique.  Copyrights were created to protect creative work and to prevent others from using a creative work and saying it was their own.  You can look at it as a law against plagiarism.

Let's take another example of an "innocent" infringer.  Let's go back to my example of me writing a book on divorce and incorporating that into one of my Boise Divorce Attorney websites.  Say that Joe Q. Public has gone through a particularly painful divorce and custody battle and wants to create a self-help support website.  Say that he reads my book that I have transformed into my website and wants to incorporate the information in it to his website.  I refer to him as "innocent" because he isn't stealing my creative work to make a profit off of it, he just finds it really good and wants to share it with others.  He must first gain my permission to use the information because it is protected by copyright law.

There are some exceptions to using other people's work which fall under the Fair Use Doctrine.  While the doctrine does not enumerate what exactly fair use is, it does give some general statements such as it is ok to use a portion of another person's work for educational purposes, or to use a small part of a work to comment upon or to critique in a scholarly fashion.  It also looks at the intent of the person seeking to use it.

How Can You Use a Copyrighted Work?
The best way to use a copyrighted work is to get the permission of the author or creator or their heirs.  If the work is not part of the public domain, you will not have to worry if your use constitutes fair use if you have permission.

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