What is copyright infringement?

A lot of people confuse copyright and trademarks, but they are, in fact, very different. A trademark is a visual indicator that a service or product belongs to a particular company or entity (think logo)—copyright, on the other hand, grants exclusive legal rights to the originator of a piece of written or artistic material.

Performances, literary works, musical material, and films can all be copyrighted. The copyright is awarded by default to the author or creator of the piece unless a written statement transfers ownership of the copyright to someone else. Copyright infringement occurs when a piece of copyrighted material is recreated or distributed without proper permission being granted. Recreated copyrighted material can be done legally, so long as the owner licenses the piece.

Let’s look at an example. A new blockbuster movie comes out in theaters. Tickets are sold out all over the country, and people are anxious to get a seat to see this incredibly influential film. One man viewing the film records the entire thing on his cell phone. He then uploads his recorded version online and charges people to download and view the movie. This would be considered an unlawful recreation of the film, and therefore that man would be guilty of copyright infringement.

In a more modern example, a popular new book comes out, and readers everywhere get attached to the gorgeous language. An industrious shirt maker starts creating shirts and sweatshirts with lines from the copyrighted book to make a profit. This could be considered copyright infringement, and you can currently find examples of it all over Etsy.

If you want to avoid participating in copyright infringement, follow this simple rule: If you do not own the material, do not use it. At first glance, this may sound limiting, but it is freeing in that it is the only way to operate without risk.

If you need assistance untangling yourself from a copyright infringement situation, reach out to Jarafi Law. We can help you sort everything out in a way that preserves copyright exclusivity. We have helped hundreds of clients copyright their material and can even help you research ahead of time to ensure that your copyright will not infringe on anyone else’s.

Don’t wait, call today.