NOW READING: 6 Things About Understanding Copyright Basics Learners Should Know

6 Things About Understanding Copyright Basics Learners Should Know

Part of Global Digital Citizenship is understanding how to respect and protect intellectual property. Understanding copyright basics is a great start for your learners.

While in school, students learn a range of things that will help them with studying in a college or university and assist them throughout their future lives. All of them are extremely important—how to express thoughts orally and in writing, how to manage time, how to collaborate with others, and many other useful things. However, often we forget that students should also know how the law works.

To be precise, they need to know about copyright law, how it’s related to plagiarism, how students should work with copyrighted works and protect their own writing from copyright infringement, and even the origins of copyright laws. To help them with understanding copyright basics, we provide you here with a list of must-know concepts every student should be familiar with.

1. What is fair use?

This actually has to do with your right to use a copyrighted work without any permission from the copyright owner. Students should take into consideration the following four factors to make sure their use is fair:

  • The purpose and character of your use;
  • The nature of the copyrighted work;
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion you use;
  • The effect of your use upon the potential market.

For example, students can use some copyrighted works to create parodies, to conduct research, to report news, to comment, to criticize, etc. If you learn that the work you want to ‘borrow’ is not a fair use, you can ask for permission by contacting a copyright owner.

2. What is public domain?

These are works that are not copyrighted and need no permission or payment to be used. Public domain works can be of three types:

  • Those works that aren’t copyrightable (names, titles, slogans, symbols, ideas, facts, documents etc.);
  • Those works that were given to the public domain by their authors;
  • Those works for which copyright has expired and wasn’t renewed (under this category fall those that were created before 1923; also copyright expires 70 years after the author’s death).

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3. What is protected by trademark and patent?

Although above we mentioned that names, titles, slogans, symbols and ideas are public domain, they might have trademark or patent protection. Trademark is usually used to prevent others from using the same title or design, and produce services or goods under the same name. By the way, trademarks do not expire, unlike copyright or patent protection.

Patents involve the granting of property rights to the inventor, so one can protect the idea or invention. If a person wants to learn more regarding this issue, he or she can contact The Inventors Assistance Center (IAC), where they are provided with relevant patent information and services.

Names, titles, slogans, symbols and ideas can be both public domain and protected by trademark or patent.

4. What works are copyright protected?

Those writings that Internet users come across on the Web can be either public domain or copyrighted. There are special websites (stocks) that post only public domain texts, images, videos and so on. Examples include public domain archive, Wikimedia Commons, The Public Domain Review, and many others.

Students shouldn’t forget that materials available on the Internet can be both copyrighted and belong to the public domain.

5. How can a person register copyright?

There’s no need to officially register a copyright of your work since a person becomes its owner as soon as it’s created. Nevertheless, if a person wants to distribute the work in some way (publish it), it makes sense to make it official and enjoy a number of benefits. So if students feel like registering their writings, they can consult the International Copyright Office Directory where they can learn more about copyright law, register the work online, and find answers to questions they may have.

6. What is the difference between plagiarism and copyright infringement?

Though these two phenomena are usually confused, they mean different things. Plagiarism is failing to reference or cite—or incorrectly referencing or citing—works other people created. Copyright infringement is one’s use of the copyrighted work without the copyright owner’s permission or any compensation (in case it’s required).

To become more knowledgeable about copyright law, students obviously need to learn more about this subject. However, the points above are a great starting point for understanding copyright basics.

Michael Yarbrough is a former school teacher currently working as an ESL tutor. On a daily basis, he encourages his students and assists them in reaching their biggest dreams. Follow him on Twitter or Google+.


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