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fair use week February 23-February 27th happens to be National Fair Use Week! This is a time coordinated by the Association of Research Libraries to bring attention to intellectual property rights and copyright law. Here are a few common questions writers ask about copyright and links to resources with more information:

  1. How can I copyright my work? Sometimes this question comes up in writing critique groups when individuals are paranoid their work will be stolen. Writers may not realize they don’t need to formally register work in order to copyright it. “Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work,” according to the United States Copyright Office. This topic has been covered ad nauseum on other sites so I won’t dedicate any more space to it. To formally copyright your work, check out the process with the United State Copyright Office.
  2. What is the Digital Millenium Copyright Act? A writer’s friend. If you like one of my posts and decide to copy/paste it on your own site – even if you provide byline credit to me – your act is illegal. I own the content on Write Naked. No one else has permission to use digital rights of Write Naked’s content. Every page of Write Naked has a disclaimer in the footer reminding users of this. Perhaps you submitted work to a magazine, they published it on their website, but have not paid you. Or someone takes one of your photos and publishes it on their site without your consent. You might want to send them a DMCA takedown notice. Typically you first send a DMCA Takedown notice to the site owner. If they don’t cooperate you reach out to the site’s service provider or host. The site host must comply with the Takedown notice; in some circumstances this could mean the violating website is taken offline.
  3. I can’t afford an attorney, are there pro bono copyright lawyers? Yes, I’ve mentioned a service a few times in past posts. If you have not yet checked them out, Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts is a great organization providing reduced fee and sometimes free legal services for individuals working in creative fields.
copyright laws

Some writers get anxious when you start talking copyright.

If you are interested in copyright laws surrounding digital media and videos, on Wednesday, February 25th legal expert Brandon Butler will answer questions from 3PM-4PM EST in a TweetChat – #videofairuse on Twitter. Follow other news items throughout the week via #fairuseweek2015 and follow @fairuseweek.

NOTE: Be advised that I am not a legal expert and none of what appears here is intended as legal advice. Speak with an attorney for legal advisement.