Janet Fries and Jennifer T. Criss wrote an article titled Debunking Copyright Myths. The article was published in Landslide, Vol. 11, No. 6, July/August 2019 and is available on the American Bar Association website and the authors’ law firm website.

« Myth #1: Public Access = Public Domain. The first myth is that anything to which the public has access, or that is publicly available, is in the public domain; i.e., if it’s on the Internet, it can be used without a license or other permission. This is far from the truth. »

« Myth #2: The Poor Man’s Copyright… Mailing yourself a copy of your work or having it notarized has no legal effect. »

« Myth #3: Registration Isn’t Necessary… Copyright protection does not cover ideas, only the expression of those ideas… As soon as the idea is expressed tangibly—for example, by writing the novel or painting the portrait—the work is protected by copyright law… [But] an author cannot bring a lawsuit for copyright infringement, however, without a certificate of registration from the Copyright Office. »

« Myth #4: The 30 Seconds/500 Copies/Two-Thirds/200 Words Rule… To determine whether a use that does not fall into one of the statutory limitations qualifies as fair use depends on the analysis and application of four nonexclusive factors:

  • The purpose and character of the use;
  • The nature of the copyrighted work;
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  • The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

By way of example only, the Supreme Court held that the use of 300 words verbatim from a 200,000-word unpublished manuscript of the memoirs of former President Gerald Ford constituted copyright infringement,19 and the Sixth Circuit held that a filmmaker’s repeated sampling of two seconds of a copyrighted sound recording similarly constituted infringement and not fair use. »


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