As this website has grown in popularity, the instances of copyright infringement have increased accordingly. I feel that this is a good time to explain copyright laws in easy to understand terms.
The creator of any tangible works holds the exclusive right to distribute, reproduce, sell, perform, display, or create derivatives of said works. This means that text, images, and even original dance moves belong only to the originator. Using work that was created by someone else without first obtaining their permission is against the law. As you can see, derivatives are also part of the law, so changing some of the words in an excerpt, or translating it into another language, is still illegal. Every country in the world enforces copyright.
A copyright is enforceable from the moment it is put to paper (or disk), and a copyright notice is not necessary. The only “public domain” that exists is material that is produced by the federal government, abandoned by the owner, or expired. In almost all of the world, copyright is in force until 50 years after the death of the creator. United States copyright regulations are driven by corporate owners, and a confusing registration system has resulted in a variety of expiry dates, with certain copyrights lasting as long as 95 years.
The Fair Use Provision (also called Fair Dealing) allows people to use copyrighted material without the author’s permission. This is only for news reporting, education, and research. It allows for the use of a portion of any given work which must be attributed to the copyright holder; otherwise it is plagiarism. Paraphrasing copyrighted material is permissible under Fair Use, but failing to credit your “source of inspiration” is still illegal.
In most cases, someone discovering that you have violated their copyright will send you a “cease and desist” message, requiring you to either remove the offending material, or correctly attribute it. If it is deemed that you have in any way detracted from the potential value of the material, or have profited in any way from it, you can be sued. Server owners who knowingly permit plagiarized material to remain on their equipment are also legally accountable. When a System Administrator receives a Cease and Desist Order, you can be sure that the offending website will be removed; and if you read the fine print on your agreement, you will find that a server will supply the complainant with all of the personal information they need about the offender in order to proceed with a lawsuit.
To sum up: if you want to use anything created by someone else, ask permission; if you are certain it falls under the Fair Use Provision, give credit to the owner.
‘The Copyright Law of the United States of America’
‘The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights’