I first became aware of copyright when my mother-in-law’s original works were copied, distributed and sold without her permission. She is a Quran Teacher for the elders and instead of just listening to her student’s recitation of the Quran verses, she creates modules, quizzes, and other workbook activities to improve pronunciation, stimulate articulation of letters/vowels as well as one’s understanding of what is being recited.
It took her by surprise to find that the hours and effort put on the works were stolen and marketed to agencies and to make it worse, her name was not credited at all! Now, it may seem the right thing to do to confront the infringer at the first place or even better, sue in court! But, we, like most people, was bombarded with a great deal of copyright myths and urban legends that had us believe to be true.
But now that I am in the industry of intellectual property myself, I tear through these allegations pretty easily. So, I wanted to take a few moments to address some of the infamous copyright myths and reveal the underlying truth covered beneath.
1. If the Work Doesn’t Have ©, Then No Permission is Needed
Not true. Copyright exists as soon as the original work is created and belongs to the author of the work automatically; although there is no copyright notice (©) appeared on the work. Works are eligible for copyright regardless of the quality of the work and the purpose for which they were created; and enjoys automatic protection.
2. If the Work is not Registered, Then it isn’t Copyrighted
Not true. Copyright registration is not a pre-requisite to enforce a copyright. Unlike trademark, patent or industrial design, copyright is well understood that original works enjoy automatic protection under the law once created in a tangible form. However, registering your work does provide you with extra protections.
If you intend to sue for infringement, a notification of copyright in any work must be made to the Controller of Copyright (Section 26A, Copyrights Act) or evidenced the ownership on copyright by way of a statutory declaration (Section 42, Copyrights Act). Such notification or statutory declaration will be admissible in any proceedings in court as prima facie evidence of the facts under the law.
In short, a work is protected by copyright the moment it is created, but if you want to enforce that copyright in a court, you need to register it.
3. If You Don’t Protect Your Copyright, You Lose It
Not true. Copyright has a set period of time for which it is valid depending on factors such as nature of the work, the owner’s identity, whether jointly authored or whether the work was anonymous. Unless you take some kind of action, there is nothing that precludes you from enforcing your copyrights at a later date.
4. If I Give Credit, It Isn’t an Infringement
Not true. It’s a common misconception that simply giving credit is suffice to avoid copyright infringement. However, this is not the case. It is legally and ethically important to give a proper copyright credit to the portion of the copyrighted work you are using in a proper way to the copyright owner. Further, for commercial purposes, it is always best to seek the owner’s permission before using his works since you are making profit from it.
5. If the work is used for non-profit educational purposes, It isn’t infringement
Not true. Copyright Act protects the author, the nature of the work, how it is being used and whether it adversely affects the value of the original work. It does not protect the user of the copyrighted work. That being said, even a non-profit educational use with good intentions can undermine the value of a copyrighted work, such organizations are not immune from copyright infringement suits.
Hence, I’m sure we are all familiar with the saying, “If it’s not yours, then don’t touch it!” Copyright laws adhere to this same philosophy. The rule is simple, get permission from the owner, creator, or holder of the copyrighted material to use their work, then benefit it wisely.