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Copyright In A Nutshell!

by Allen Rolf

If you're posting on the Net, there are some things you need to know about copyright law.

With the ease of publishing information on the Internet, the knowledge of basic copyright law has become an important element in doing business. Nowhere else can one borrow, copy, or steal information with such ease as the Net, but the use of copyright material may invite legal action at the worst or embarrassment at the least to a person who violate the law.

This purpose of this article is to give the reader a primary understanding of what copyright is and how it applies to doing business on the net.

What Is Copyright?

The basic definition of copyright is the ownership of a intellectual creation by its creator. You can copyright an article such as this, a sales letter, written information on a website, photographs, or sculptor and others may not use your creation without conditional approval. Conditional approval means for a fee or under pre-stated conditions. You cannot copyright an idea, process or a business symbol. Ideas and processes are covered by patent law; business symbols are protected by trademark law.

How Do I Copyright My Creation?

Under present copyright law, an intellectual creation is automatically copyrighted to the creator at the moment of creation. This means that if you are the first to create an original work and can prove the date of creation as pre-dating all other claims, you are automatically protected with possession by law. However, it should be understood, as with many things, possession of copyright is largely dependent upon your ability to protect youself under the law. If, for instance, you decide to re-print this article without my persmission and I do not have the means to hire legal assistance to protect my right of possession, my copyright, for all practical purposes, has no validity!

How Do I Prove Possession For Copyright Purposes?

There are several ways of proving possession of a creation as of a certain date, but the simplest and least expensive is to simply place your creation (if a written article, or sales letter, photograph, or graphic) in an envelope and mail it to yourself. An unopened letter with post mark is sufficient, in most cases, to prove possession.

The Risk of Copying & Using Material On The Internet

Since the majority of Internet users are probably not acquainted with copyright law and its implications, quite often material is copied and used without any understanding of legal liability. You can be sued for unauthorized use of copyright material!

Many Internet users are annotating their creations with the standard: " 1998 ownername" This is a simple way of letting people know that permission must be obtained before use of the material in question. Others, (as in the case of this article) automatically grant reprint rights under certain pre-stated conditions. For instance, you may repoduce and distribute this article freely (see annotation at end of article) as long as it is not altered and for non-commercial purposes.

The best approach, when in doubt, is to be safe rather than sorry and seek reprint permission from the copyright holder. This can be done with a simple Email, and most people who place their material on news groups or on webtsites are happy to let you use the material if proper credit is given. You should always show the " 1998 ownername" tag along with the added statement: "Reprinted with permission."

For more detailed information on copyright law and how it applies to the Internet, goto: http://weber.u.washington.edu/~daryn/copyright.

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1998 Allen Rolf