Copyright law is complicated and confusing. That is why lawyers like John Branca spend a great deal of time analyzing these laws. Here are some common ways that people often break copyright law and how to avoid these situations.
Using Media Without Contacting the Owner First
It is illegal to copy other people’s work in your own without asking for approval with very few exceptions. If you are commenting on or parodying the work, you may not be violating the law, but this is often up to the interpretation of the copywriter owner or the courts. The key is whether or not your content is considered an original, creative work of art. You can use works in the public domain, as these are not under copyright. You may utilize small parts of work under a complicated legal concept called fair use in some limited circumstances. The safest route is always to get in touch with the owner of the piece of writing, artwork, etc.
Pirating Movies and Television Shows
Even people who knowingly stream or download illegal copies of TV shows and movies usually have good reasons. Most people cannot afford to purchase all of the media that they want to consume. Perhaps you only want to watch your favorite home team play, but you would need to buy an expensive cable package to do so. Although it is not fair that you do not have affordable access to that media, it is still a violation of copyright law to download or stream it.
Instead, you should subscribe to streaming services. There are so many to choose from that subscribing to all of them would be very expensive. Most will allow you to cancel at any time without a fee. This means that you can subscribe to a service to watch a few shows or movies, and then cancel it when you are finished. There are some services where you can buy bundles of streaming services and cable channels at a lower cost.
Sharing Music Without Permission
Do you remember making a CD or a tape of your favorite songs for someone? Have you downloaded MP3 files and shared them? It is unlikely that there would be any legal ramifications for this, especially if you only shared the music with one or two people. However, this is a violation of copyright law. If you allow many other people to download the MP3 files you have, you may be fined or even face jail time in some rare instances. At the very least, you could be required to remove it according to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DCMA.
One positive result of the huge amount of piracy in the earlier days of the internet is that companies started to offer their music for purchase at a low cost. Instead of downloading illegal copies of a song, you can usually buy it for around $1 on Amazon or a similar platform. You can also subscribe to a streaming service where you can listen to almost any song on demand and share playlists with others.
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