media update’s Talisa Jansen van Rensburg takes a look at five frequently asked questions surrounding copyright. 

Copyright influences pretty much everyone, and especially those within the media industry — whether you’re a social media manager or a content creator sharing your work on websites. Turning a blind eye and saying copyright doesn’t apply to you could lead you to get into some serious trouble. 

So, let’s dive into the five FAQs about copyright:

1. What is copyright?

According to Investopedia, “copyright refers to the legal right of the owner of intellectual property.” In other words, this means that “the original creators of products and anyone they give authorisation to are the only ones with the exclusive right to reproduce the work.”

Copyright thus protects the original creator and all parties involved, as the law dictates that whoever owns the work is the only individual able to decide who may make use of it.

2. What are the types of copyright infringement?

There are two main types of copyright infringement: primary and secondary. According to JUSTIA, “a primary infringement involves a direct infringement by the defendant” and a “secondary infringement happens if someone facilitates another person or group in infringing on a copyright.”

Primary infringement means that you committed the copyright on your own, meaning you took someone else’s work without permission and used it. Secondary infringement is when someone who is associated with you oversteps the copyright rules. For example, if your business partner makes use of content without the proper permissions acquired, you too will fall under the firing squad.

This means that you can fall victim to copyright infringement without even being aware of it. If your name is associated with the content that is shared without following the rules and regulations contained within the law, you could land yourself in some very hot water.

3. What is the punishment for copyright infringement?

According to the University of the Witwatersrand, these are the penalties for copyright infringement:

“The Copyright Act makes provision for criminal penalties [which is] a maximum fine of R5 000 per infringement and / or imprisonment of up to three years for a first conviction. The maximum fine is an imprisonment penalty for a second conviction, which is R10 000 and / or five years.”

This means that for every infringement you make you will need to pay a fine of up to R5 000 and, in more dire cases, you may even spend time in prison.

4. How are plagiarism and copyright related?

Plagiarism and copyright go hand in hand. For example, you don’t necessarily have to commit copyright infringement to commit plagiarism because although you have room to make use of the content you need to ensure that you give credit and cite the correct sources and the same goes for copyright.

According to the University of Michigan, plagiarism is when you make use of another person’s idea or content without giving them credit for it, whereas copyright infringement is where you make use of someones else work by changing it and applying it to your own work without the permission to do so. This can be seen in the music indsutry on many occasions where people claim that artist made use of their music or lyrics without permission.

5. What is ‘fair use’ before committing copyright infringement?

Fair use provides people with a little leeway to make use of another person’s content without needing to get their permission to do so.

According to Cornell Law School, there are four fair use factors that you need to take into account when making use of someone else's work. These include:
  1. The reason you are using someone else’s work. Are you using it to turn a profit or are you using it for educational purposes?
  2. The kind of content you have copied. Was it content from a news broadcast or from an Oscar-winning film? You have a better claim to fair use of factual content than creative content.
  3. The amount of work that has been copied. Did you use a single sentence from an article, a paragraph or an entire chapter?
The effect of the copied work on the original piece. This boils down to whether or not your ‘fair use’ work will harm the original piece. If your work will damage the value of the original, then it isn’t ‘fair usage’.

What are some other FAQs you might have about copyright? Be sure to ask us in the comments section below and we’ll answer them.

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Now that you have a better understanding of copyright, it’s time to head over to A journalist’s guide on how to combat online plagiarism.

*Image courtesy of Vecteezy