This unit is not intended to cover all aspects of copyrights, but rather to give some general guidelines.
First of all, copying for private use of materials that you own (legally bought materials) is now generally legal. There may, however, be problems with educational materials, but it seems fair use to make a backup copy to store away in order to protect the investment.
The idea behind copyright is to ensure that the producer gets her/his pay / reward for the work done. Copyrights expire after some years, but the expiration period changes constantly. For example, in 1998 The Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act extended the term from the end of the author’s life plus 50 to life plus 70 years. The works made for hire term was extended from 75 to 95 years.
Copyright issues are still being investigated. Lawrence Lessig is one of the pioneers to challenge the courts,who may find it acceptable that e.g. Disney earns money from producing Snow White, but find it unreasonable that,without paying anything, due to the Sonny Bono Act in 1998, Disney is protected for decades for the creation based on they story written by the Brothers Grimm
A general trap is to use background music in videos. Only music which has been bought with a license to be used as background music in videos and film may be used for this purpose. So unless you yourself have composed the music, avoid using music in videos. However, it is legal to make video recordings where music is part of the natural background and has not been inserted as part of the editing process (e.g. in a disco), but take care!
Copyright law covers only the particular form or manner in which ideas or information have been manifested, the "form of material expression". It is not designed or intended to cover the actual idea, concepts, facts, styles, or techniques which may be embodied in or represented by the copyright work. In some jurisdictions, copyright law provides scope for satirical or interpretive works which themselves may be copyrighted. For example, the copyright which subsists in relation to a Mickey Mouse cartoon prohibits unauthorized parties from distributing copies of the cartoon or creating derivative works which copy or mimic Disney's particular anthropomorphic mouse, but does not prohibit the creation of artistic works about anthropomorphic mice in general, so long as they are sufficiently different to not be imitative of the original. Other laws may impose legal restrictions on reproduction or use where copyright does not - such as trademarks and patents.
Copyright laws are standardized through international conventions such as the Berne Convention in some countries and are required by international organizations such as European Union or World Trade Organization from their member states.
Obtaining and enforcing copyright
Typically, a work must meet minimal standards of originality in order to qualify for copyright, and the copyright expires after a set period of time (some jurisdictions may allow this to be extended). Different countries impose different tests, although generally the requirements are low; in the United Kingdom there has to be some 'skill, originality and work' which has gone into it. However, even fairly trivial amounts of these qualities are sufficient for determining whether a particular act of copying constitutes an infringement of the author's original expression. In Australia, it has been held that a single word is insufficient to comprise a copyright work.
In the United States, copyright has been made automatic (in the style of the Berne Convention) since March 1, 1989, which has had the effect of making it appear to be more like a property right. Thus, as with property, a copyright need not be granted or 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 letter), the copyright holder is entitled to enforce his or her exclusive rights. However, while a copyright need not be officially registered for the copyright owner to begin exercising his exclusive rights, registration of works (where the laws of that jurisdiction provide for registration) does have benefits; it serves as prima facie evidence of a valid copyright and enables the copyright holder to seek statutory damages and attorney's fees (whereas in the USA, for instance, registering after an infringement only enables one to receive actual damages and lost profits). The original holder of the copyright may be the employer of the actual author rather than the author himself if the work is a "work for hire". Again, this principle is widespread; in English law the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 provides that where a work in which copyright subsists is made by an employee in the course of that employment, the copyright is automatically assigned to the employer.
Copyrights are generally enforced by the holder in a civil law court, but there are also criminal infringement statutes. Criminal sanctions are generally aimed at serious counterfeiting activity, but are now becoming more commonplace as copyright collectives such as the RIAA are, more and more, targeting the file sharing home Internet user. Thus far however, these cases have usually been settled outside of court, with demands for payment of several thousand dollars accompanied by nothing more than a threat to sue the file sharer, which will be ruinous to many defendants in practice, thus such cases rarely make their way to civil law courts.
It is important to understand that absence of the copyright symbol does not mean that the work is not covered by copyright. The work once created from originality through 'mental labor' is instantaneously considered copyrighted to that person.
This phrase is sometimes still used even on some documents to which the original author does not retain all rights granted by copyright law, such as works released under a copyleft license. It is, however, only a habitual formality and is unlikely to have legal consequences.
The exclusive rights of the copyright holder
Several exclusive rights typically attach to the holder of a copyright:
-to produce copies or reproductions of the work and to sell those copies (including, typically, electronic copies)
-to import or export the work
-to create derivative works (works that adapt the original work)
-to perform or display the work publicly
-to sell or assign these rights to others
The phrase "exclusive right" means that only the copyright holder is free to exercise the attendant rights, and others are prohibited from using the work without the consent of the copyright holder. Copyright is often called a "negative right", as it serves to prohibit people (e.g. readers, viewers, or listeners, and primarily publishers and would be publishers) from doing something, rather than permitting people (e.g. authors) to do something. 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 its duration. This means an author can choose to exploit their copyright for some of the duration and then not for the rest, vice versa, or entirely one or the other.
There is however a critique which rejects this assertion as being based on a philosophical interpretation of copyright law as an entity, and is not universally shared. There is also debate on whether copyright should be considered a property right or a moral right. Many argue that copyright does not exist merely to restrict third parties from publishing ideas and information, and that defining copyright purely as a negative right is incompatible with the public policy objective of encouraging authors to create new works and enrich the public domain.
The right to adapt a work means the right to transform the way in which the work is expressed. Examples include developing a stage play or film script from a novel; translating a short story; and making a new arrangement of a musical work.
Fair use and fair dealing
Copyright does not prohibit all copying or replication. In the United States, the fair use doctrine, codified by the Copyright Act of 1976 as 17 U.S.C. Section 107, permits some copying and distribution without permission of the copyright holder or payment to same. The statute does not clearly define fair use, but instead gives four non-exclusive factors to consider in a fair use analysis. Those factors are:
-the purpose and character of your use
-the nature of the copyrighted work
-what amount and proportion of the whole work was taken, and
-the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
In the United Kingdom and many other Commonwealth countries, a similar notion of fair dealing was established by the courts or through legislation. The concept is sometimes not well defined; however in Canada, private copying for personal use has been expressly permitted by statute since 1999. In Australia, the fair dealing exceptions under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) are a limited set of circumstances under which copyright material can be legally copied or adapted without the copyright holder's consent. Fair dealing uses are research and study; review and critique; news reportage and the giving of professional advice (ie legal advice). Under current Australian law it is still a breach of copyright to copy, reproduce or adapt copyright material for personal or private use without permission from the copyright owner. Other technical exemptions from infringement may also apply, such as the temporary reproduction of a work in machine readable form (eg, in an information technology storage system).
In the United States the AHRA (Audio Home Recording Act Codified in Section 10, 1992) prohibits action against consumers making noncommercial recordings of music, in return for royalties on both media and devices plus mandatory copy-control mechanisms on recorders.
Section 1008. Prohibition on certain infringement actions
No action may be brought under this title alleging infringement of copyright based on the manufacture, importation, or distribution of a digital audio recording device, a digital audio recording medium, an analog recording device, or an analog recording medium, or based on the noncommercial use by a consumer of such a device or medium for making digital musical recordings or analog musical recordings.
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 defence against engaging in such distribution.
It is absolutely vital to remember that copyright regimes can and do differ between countries, even countries which both adhere to the same copyright Convention. It would be dangerous to assume that an activity permitted by the laws of one country is necessarily permitted elsewhere.
Read about EU copyrights: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EU_Copyright_directive