Copyright Questions and Answers


QUESTION 11. -
IF SOMEONE PLACES AN ADVERTISEMENT WHICH HAS A COPYRIGHT SYMBOL ON IT, WHAT DO I DO?

First, you want to be sure that the person placing the ad owns the copyright on the advertisement. If you are satisfied that they hold the copyright on the advertisement, then include the copyright symbol in the ad itself. Be certain that you are clear on the use of the copyrighted material. If the material is to be incorporated into other copy, be certain that you have approval.

Do not use the copyrighted material without specific approval of the holder of the copyright.

QUESTION 12. -
SHOULD I PLACE A COPYRIGHT SYMBOL ON MY NEWSPAPER?

Yes! Although there is a recognized copyright by simply publishing material, it is better to use the copyright symbol. The copyright symbol puts the readers on notice that you claim a copyright. Secondly, it entitles you to seek statutory damages, including actual attorney fees once you register the copyright and in appropriate circumstances. Real monetary loss is often very hard or impossible to prove when someone lifts material from your newspaper. It may take years of copyright violations before you could show or even sustain damages that would justify going to court.

The legally sufficient copyright notice consists of three elements: 1) placing a "c" in a circle, or the abbreviation "copy.", or the word copyright, 2) followed by the year of creation 3) together with the name of the entity or person claiming the copyright. e.g. Copyright 1994, Michigan Press Association; Copy. 1994, Michigan Press Association.

QUESTION 13. -
WILL THE INCLUSION OF A COPYRIGHT SYMBOL PROTECT THE CONTENTS OF MY NEWSPAPER FROM BEING USED BY OTHERS?

Usually. Inclusion of the copyright symbol will protect material and the format in which you place the material in the newspaper. However, it does not give you superior rights to someone who holds a copyright to a particular portion of the newspaper. If a customer places a copyrighted advertisement into your newspaper, your additional copyright symbol will protect the particular version of the copyright appearing in your paper. But it does not give you the right to republish the copyrighted advertisement without permission of the holder of the copyright for the advertisement.

As to editorial content and advertisements produced by your employees, you will have copyright protection by placing the symbol in the newspaper.

QUESTION 14. -
WHAT IF SOMEONE REPRINTS FROM MY NEWSPAPER WITHOUT MY PERMISSION?

In order to prosecute for a copyright violation, the particular edition of the newspaper which was copied without permission must be registered with the copyright office by filing a copy of Application Form SE. Because the copyright office does not have room for all of the editions of your newspaper, not to mention the other 290 members of Michigan Press Association, you are only required to file this form when you need to register the work. You only need to register the work if you intend to enforce the copyright. Thus, you only need to register an edition of your newspaper when you intend to pursue your rights for a copyright violation. You must register the work within 3 months of publication of the work or prior to an infringement of the work to seek statutory damages and attorney fees. Otherwise only an award of actual damages and profits can be sought.

The advantage of registration is that it allows you to sue for statutory damages. It is often difficult to establish actual damages. But if you use the copyright symbol which is deemed to put the world on notice of your claim of copyright, you need not show actual loss. Instead you can ask the judge to award damages of at least $250 but not to exceed $50,000.

QUESTION 15. -
WHO OWNS THE COPYRIGHT ON WORK PRODUCED BY MY NEWSPAPER?

Again if the person is an employee of the newspaper, the presumption is that the work belongs to the newspaper. There is a doctrine called "work for hire" which places the presumption of copyright in the employer. So art work out of your art department or by your layout person or work done by a full time reporter belongs to you. But if the person is an independent contractor, e.g. a stringer or a freelance artist, the presumption is that the independent contractor holds the copyright and you need their approval for every insertion of the material. This is true even if they did not put a copyright symbol on their work.

QUESTION 16. -
WHAT IS A COPYRIGHT?

A copyright protects the expression of ideas. The claimant, who may be the author, has the following rights in the author:

  • To reproduce the copyrighted work in copies;
  • To prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work;
  • To distribute copies of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease or lending;
  • To display the copyrighted work publicly in the case of literary works and pictorial, or graphical works.

QUESTION 17. -
HOW DO I WRITE A BOOK REVIEW OR CRITICIZE ANOTHER NEWSPAPER OR PUBLICATION IF THAT WORK IS COPYRIGHTED?

Understanding that there is a great deal written about other writings that is important in its own right, the copyright laws recognize an exception to the copyright rule for "fair use" of copyrighted materials. To determine whether or not the use of the copyrighted materials is fair use the statute provides for the following consideration:

  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

For example, a book review may quote from the copyrighted book because there is attribution of any ideas or quotes taken from the book. The same is true of movie reviews.