Thursday, November 13, 2008

Don't be Fooled by the Lack of a Copyright Notice

We are all familiar with copyright notices. They appear on web sites, compact discs, books, virtually everything that is protected by copyright laws.

They usually contain the letter "c" inside of a circle with wording such as "All Rights Reserved" following. Even though most everyone is familiar with these notices, there is a great deal of confusion about the purpose of a copyright notice and what the failure to include such a notice may mean to the author of a work. Much of this confusion arises from a relatively recent change in United States Copyright Law.

Under past United States Copyright Law, it was necessary to place the copyright notice on every item containing a protected work. Failure to include a copyright notice on a substantial number of published items could lead to loss of copyright protection. In effect, the work would lapse into the public domain because the failure to include a copyright notice was deemed to be a waiver of copyright protection. About 15 years ago, the United States amended the copyright laws to come into conformance with the Berne Convention on International Copyrights and the laws of many foreign countries. The end result is that failure to include a copyright notice on a published work does not any longer lead to loss of copyright protection.

Even with this change of law, there are still very good reasons to include a copyright notice when you publish a work of original authorship. including the notice asserts to the world that the work is yours and that you intend to enforce your rights. It also helps guard against a defense of innocent infringement or an arguement that the infringement was not intentional. Under the copyright laws, intentional infringement results in much higher statutory penalties.

The end result of this change in law is that it is no longer safe to assume that a work that does not include a copyright notice is not protected under the copyright laws. The copyright laws protect all original works of authorship regardless of whether they contain copyright notices or have been registered with the copyright office. There can be differences in the level of damages available if a notice is not included or a registration has not been affected. Still, misappropriation of a work of original work of authorship is still considered copyright infringements and damages would be recoverable against hte misappropriating party.

Given this fact, it is wise to assume that everything you run across on the Internet is copyright protected. You should refrain from publishing or using these items unless you obtain a license from the author. If you cannot find out who the author is so not assume that they are not out there and will not come after you if you use their material. The inconvenience and potential legal liability are too substantial and could have huge adverse impacts on your business.

About the Author:

Jon Fischer is the owner of the following Legal and Business Sites. Offering legal document packages for online businesses, IT companies, corporate, real estate and estate planning packages.

Visit the following sites:
- Incorporation and Bylaws

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