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Rights of the Copyright Owner

As we noted in some other posts, copyright law can be tricky for unqualified people. In many cases, when one thinks about copyright, one automatically thinks that copying someone else’s work without permission is illegal by law. It is important to make this clear – copyright law makes it illegal to do many other things and not just copying. The copyright owner has the exclusive right to:

  • reproduce the copyrighted work in copies and phonorecords;
  • prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work;
  • distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work by sale or other transfer of ownership, by rental, by leasing, or by lending;
  • perform the copyrighted work publicly by displaying it or by means of a digital audio transmission.

If you do any of the above things without permission from the copyright owner, you could be liable for committing copyright infringement.

The most commonly violated right in a copyright infringement dispute or lawsuit is the first one – the right to reproduce a copyrighted work. The right to prepare derivative works is also a subject of common violations. A derivative work is one that is derived from another. The U.S. Copyright Act states the following in regards to derivative works:

… a work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as translation, music arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted. A work consisting of editorial revisions, annotations, elaborations, or other modifications which, as a whole, represent an original work of authorship, i a ‘derivative work’ …

For example, if you find a nice article on some website and then make some changes to it by rearranging a few items and editing a few sentences before you distribute it to an e-mail subscription list, you will be violating the exclusive right to prepare derivative versions of the article.

While some of the exclusive rights in copyright law rarely apply to online activity, many of them often do. Since photographs, text, music, software, etc. can be protected by copyright law, the owner’s rights can be violated whenever someone else reproduces them or creates derivative versions of them on the Internet.

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