Can We Copy & Paste Copyrighted Things?

By Craig Straub

The owner of a copyright has certain rights that are protected by civil and criminal law. For the owner to civilly enforce those rights in federal court, the copyright must be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office before the suit is brought. Criminal copyright infringement is prosecuted by the government while a civil suit is brought by the copyright owner.

The owner of a copyright has certain rights that are protected by civil and criminal law. For the owner to civilly enforce those rights in federal court, the copyright must be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office before the suit is brought. Criminal copyright infringement is prosecuted by the government while a civil suit is brought by the copyright owner.

Fair Use Exception

Assuming the copyright owner has a valid registered copyright, there still are legal exceptions which allow an image to be copied and used. The Fair Use Exception was created to allow individuals limited use of copyrighted material for commentary, criticism, satire, education or research. Courts will look at several factors to determine if the use was fair, such as the character of the use, factual or fictional nature of the work, if the work has been published, amount of the image that was copied, and any financial effect on the owner of the copyright. If you are merely copying an image for personal use and the image is published, courts will take this into account, but the other factors can be considered too. If you are making money by copying the image, a court is more likely to consider it an infringement. If you have changed the image or added commentary, it is more likely to be considered a fair use.

Protect against infringement by registering a copyright. Get Started Now

Owner's Consent

If the copyright owner has given you permission, like an assignment or license for certain rights, you can copy the image. Copyright owners can give others the right to copy an image for personal use, which is common on some websites.

Civil Infringement Damages

Claiming that you copied an image innocently is not a defense; however, it may be taken into account for damages if you lose an infringement case. If you lose a civil case, damages can include any money lost from the copying of the image, attorney fees and statutory damages, which can be from $200 to $150,000 depending on whether the act is considered willful.

Criminal Infringement Damages

Criminal copyright infringement requires the person to willfully copy an image for commercial advantage or financial gain. This is established when the copied image has a reproduction or distribution value of more than $1,000 or was distributed on the Internet and intended for commercial distribution. If found guilty of criminal infringement, you can be punished by imprisonment and fines, which will depend on the amount of copies made and worth of the copied material.

Protect against infringement by registering a copyright. Get Started Now
Can I Record Someone Else's Song and Change the Words in Parody Law?

References

Related articles

Song Lyrics & Copyright Laws

Copyright law protects all aspects of an artistic work, as long as the work is original and has been reduced to a tangible medium. Song lyrics, for example, are protected as soon as they are recorded, whether in audio or written form. Although you don’t need to register your song lyrics with the U.S. Copyright Office to enjoy copyright protection, registration makes it easier to prove that you wrote the lyrics before the infringer did and allows you to collect damages without proving economic harm.

Can Students Draw a Cartoon Character or Is It Copyrighted?

The laws of copyright protect original created works, including graphic images such as cartoon characters. Any person or company may claim copyright to a unique and original creation; the copyright holder has the right to register the copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. Registration allows the copyright holder to sue for damages if his creation is copied, sold or reproduced without permission.

Copyright Rules & Time Limits

U.S. federal laws provide the basis for copyright rules and time limits. The general purpose of copyright law is to encourage and protect artistic and literary creativity by giving artists and authors legal protection over their creations. However, because the general public also has an interest in acquiring the right to use those creations, copyrights do not exist in perpetuity.

Related articles

Copyright Laws & Guidelines

There are many laws and guidelines related to applying for copyright registration, the basis for bringing a lawsuit for ...

Forms of Copyright Infringement

The federal copyright laws protect the creators of original literary and other artistic works. If you register a ...

What Are the Copyright Laws for Images?

Digital cameras and social networking sites have led to an increase in the volume of images across the media. Anyone ...

What Is Copyright Infraction?

With easily copied material available on the Internet, the likelihood of copyright infraction has increased. Copyright ...

Browse by category