Understanding Copyright Law and How You Can Protect your Work
On August 20, 2020, Professional Sports Photographer Howard Shatz filed a case against the sports website Bleacher Report for allegedly using his photographs without his permission. Shatz claimed that the website, through the persons, groups, or corporations comprising the same, copied and reproduced his exclusive photographs, putting them up on their website without any form of recognition or attribution as to his name or ownership. Shatz claimed that Bleacher Report also tried to conceal the fact that they violated his copyright. As of this date, Shatz’s case is still pending resolution in court.
In today’s world, where everyone owns a smartphone with a camera, it is very easy to take good pictures and publish them online for the whole world to see. But what if you take a great picture, post it on your website or social media page, and then find it on a popular website the very next day? What can you do?
The Copyright Act of 1976 exists to protect original, creative works of various kinds, such as photographs and graphic design work. But how does the law actually protect these works? And how can you invoke such protection when your work is taken without your knowledge or consent?
To answer these questions, we need to discuss the basics of US copyright laws. For aspiring photographers, knowledge of these basic concepts may one day serve you well.
What is Copyright?
A copyright is basically the legal right of an owner to original work. The very word itself is a “right to copy,” which is exclusive to the person who created the work. For others to “copy” and use their work, permission or consent of the owner must be obtained first.
Under US law, a copyright exists from the moment the original work is created. Simply put, the moment you take a photograph, that photograph is protected by copyright. Understand, however, that this protection is limited. To fully benefit from the protection of the law, you should register your work with the US Copyright Office.
What is a Copyright Registration?
Copyright registration is the process of obtaining a certificate of registration from the US Copyright Office and putting the subject work into the public record. As said earlier, the benefits of registration include the full protection and remedies afforded by copyright laws and the laws of other countries with whom the US has copyright relations.
The most common benefit afforded by registration is the right to pursue copyright infringement lawsuits against those who copy your work without your permission. In fact, the necessity of registration was highlighted by the Supreme Court in a 2019 decision, stating that registration-not pre-registration or a mere application-is required to commence an infringement action.
Shatz, being an esteemed and world-renowned photographer, registered his works and was able to file an infringement case against Bleacher Report properly.
What is Copyright Infringement?
Copyright infringement is what happens when another person uses your work without your permission. In other words, the exclusive rights granted to you by your copyright are infringed, thereby giving you the right to pursue legal action and remedies against the infringer.
It warrants stressing and repeating that copyright registration is essential for you to pursue legal action for damages against an infringer. Absent registration, you might only be able to seek and enforce a restraining order or take other actions to stop the infringement. To be safe, register!
What is False Copyright Management Information?
Copyright management information is essentially any and all information connected to an original work that identifies or describes the owner as the one who created it. It is considered false when the information is manipulated to remove all traces of attribution of the original work to the owner who created the same.
In the Shatz case, Shatz included a claim of false copyright management in his complaint, stating that the Bleacher Report was in the position to know the copyright information but used means to conceal it.
Contact Our Copyright Infringement Lawyers Today
Copyright law is, without a doubt, one of the most important laws created by Congress. What we have provided you here is just a bird’s eye view of US Copyright law.
To learn more about your rights and get assistance from experienced copyright lawyers, call Liebowitz Law Firm, PLLC, today at 800-788-1660 or submit the form on this page.
We offer free copyright infringement consultations at no risk to you.