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  • Copyright

    Copyright is applicable to certain forms of creative work. Some, but not all jurisdictions require "fixing" copyrighted works in a tangible form. It is often shared among multiple authors, each of whom holds a set of rights to use or license the work, and who are commonly referred to as rights holders. These rights frequently include reproduction, control over derivative works, distribution, public performance, and moral rights such as attribution.

    Most jurisdictions recognize copyright limitations, allowing "fair" exceptions to the creator's exclusivity of copyright and giving users certain rights. The development of digital media and computer network technologies have prompted reinterpretation of these exceptions, introduced new difficulties in enforcing copyright, and inspired additional challenges to the philosophical basis of copyright law. Simultaneously, businesses with great economic dependence upon copyright, such as those in the music business, have advocated the extension and expansion of copyright and sought additional legal and technological enforcement.

    In 1961, the United International Bureaux for the Protection of Intellectual Property signed the Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organizations. In 1996, this organization was succeeded by the founding of the World Intellectual Property Organization, which launched the 1996 WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty and the 2002 WIPO Copyright Treaty, which enacted greater restrictions on the use of technology to copy works in the nations that ratified it. The Trans-Pacific Partnership includes intellectual Property Provisions relating to copyright.

    In all countries where the Berne Convention standards apply, copyright is automatic, and need not be obtained through official registration with any government office. Once an idea has been reduced to tangible form, for example by securing it in a fixed medium (such as a drawing, sheet music, photograph, a videotape, or a computer file), the copyright holder is entitled to enforce his or her exclusive rights. However, while registration isn't needed to exercise copyright, in jurisdictions where the laws provide for registration, it serves as prima facie evidence of a valid copyright and enables the copyright holder to seek statutory damages and attorney's fees. (In the US, registering after an infringement only enables one to receive actual damages and lost profits.)

    Copyrights are generally enforced by the holder in a civil law court, but there are also criminal infringement statutes in some jurisdictions. While central registries are kept in some countries which aid in proving claims of ownership, registering does not necessarily prove ownership, nor does the fact of copying (even without permission) necessarily prove that copyright was infringed. Criminal sanctions are generally aimed at serious counterfeiting activity, but are now becoming more commonplace as copyright collectives such as the RIAA are increasingly targeting the file sharing home Internet user. Thus far, however, most such cases against file sharers have been settled out of court. (See: Legal aspects of file sharing)

    The basic right when a work is protected by copyright is that the holder may determine and decide how and under what conditions the protected work may be used by others. This includes the right to decide to distribute the work for free. This part of copyright is often overseen. The phrase "exclusive right" means that only the copyright holder is free to exercise those rights, and others are prohibited from using the work without the holder's permission. Copyright is sometimes called a "negative right", as it serves to prohibit certain people (e.g., readers, viewers, or listeners, and primarily publishers and would be publishers) from doing something they would otherwise be able to do, rather than permitting people (e.g., authors) to do something they would otherwise be unable to do. In this way it is similar to the unregistered design right in English law and European law. The rights of the copyright holder also permit him/her to not use or exploit their copyright, for some or all of the term. There is, however, a critique which rejects this assertion as being based on a philosophical interpretation of copyright law that is not universally shared. There is also debate on whether copyright should be considered a property right or a moral right.

    In many jurisdictions, copyright law makes exceptions to these restrictions when the work is copied for the purpose of commentary or other related uses. US copyright does NOT cover names, title, short phrases or Listings (such as ingredients, recipes, labels, or formulas). However, there are protections available for those areas copyright does not cover such as trademarks and patents.

    Later acts amended US Copyright law so that for certain purposes making 10 copies or more is construed to be commercial, but there is no general rule permitting such copying. Indeed, making one complete copy of a work, or in many cases using a portion of it, for commercial purposes will not be considered fair use. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act prohibits the manufacture, importation, or distribution of devices whose intended use, or only significant commercial use, is to bypass an access or copy control put in place by a copyright owner. An appellate court has held that fair use is not a defense to engaging in such distribution.

    A transfer or licence may have to meet particular formal requirements in order to be effective, for example under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 the copyright itself must be expressly transferred in writing. Under the U.S. Copyright Act, a transfer of ownership in copyright must be memorialized in a writing signed by the transferor. For that purpose, ownership in copyright includes exclusive licenses of rights. Thus exclusive licenses, to be effective, must be granted in a written instrument signed by the grantor. No special form of transfer or grant is required. A simple document that identifies the work involved and the rights being granted is sufficient. Non-exclusive grants (often called non-exclusive licenses) need not be in writing under U.S. law. They can be oral or even implied by the behavior of the parties. Transfers of copyright ownership, including exclusive licenses, may and should be recorded in the U.S. Copyright Office. (Information on recording transfers is available on the Office's web site.) While recording is not required to make the grant effective, it offers important benefits, much like those obtained by recording a deed in a real estate transaction.