Copyright law frequently captures headlines due to new legal battles and legislative changes.  Recently we heard about the MICKY MOUSE copyright expiring!  (Has the mouse been around THAT long?) Therefore, it might help to understand how these developments affect you. This blog will attempt to provide an overview of copyright law and its implications for residents of Columbus, Georgia, Phenix City, Alabama, Ft. Moore Ga – and the greater Chattahoochee Valley area.

  1. Understanding Copyright

Copyright law protects creators by giving them exclusive rights to their creative works, including the right to reproduce, distribute, and display that work publicly. With the rise of digital media, copyright infringement has become increasingly common, affecting not just artists and publishers but also everyday users of the internet. According to the Intellectual Property Office, copyright infringement cases have seen a significant uptick in recent years. This is mostly due to the internet, which has no central enforcement mechanism for identifying and eliminating copyright infringement. Enforcement is usually left up to the copyright owner themselves. So if you create something special, you need to protect that art BEFORE posting it for others to steal.

  1. Copyright Principles

Copyright law is governed by the Copyright Act of 1976 in the United States, which has been amended several times to address new technological challenges. The law provides a balance between protecting the rights of creators and promoting the wider public interest, fostering creativity and innovation. For example, you cannot copyright tape measures and rulers because it is in the public interest for this information to be made available for anyone to use without permission. You also cannot copyright simple phrases like “the sky is blue” (or “the good guys”?) because these are commonly used phrases with no known authors. Understanding these principles is crucial; particularly how they apply to both traditional media and digital platforms.

  1. Navigating Copyright Issues

For non-lawyers, it’s important to understand how to respect copyright and avoid potential legal issues. Here are some tips:

  1. Always seek permission before using someone else’s copyrighted work. This can apply to everything from using an image for an advertisement to putting on a play at your local school or church.
  2. Utilize Creative Commons licenses for content that allows for legal sharing. For example, the Winnie the Pooh characters are now available for any public, “common” use without sharing any profits related to that use with the original copyright owner.
  1. Copyright Law in Georgia

The state of Georgia was recently denied the right to copyright its own legal code and statutes by the U.S. Supreme Court.  The reasoning for denying Georgia the copyright was that individual legislators are not considered the “authors” under the Copyright Act of 1976 for works published in the course of their official duties.  This case provides a good example of the type of “owner overreach” that copyright law aims to avoid while still protecting legitimate authors/owners.  So, it doesn’t apply to everything, especially if the creation is not attributable to one person or creative effort.  But it can be tricky to know when you have a phrase or creative work that can be protected.

Legal Expertise from Gary Bruce

The Law Offices of Gary Bruce have been serving the Chattahoochee Valley area for over 30 years, providing expert legal advice on a range of issues – but not copyright law.  We do think it is interesting and want to raise awareness about the need to respect the same, but we look to experts in the area when dealing with the issue for our clients.  Our understanding of local and national laws ensures that our clients receive the best legal representation because often we work with lawyers with the expertise needed for a certain topic.  I think it is important to get the best legal representation possible and sometimes we understand that it might be another law firm.  In those situations, we are happy to try to refer a person in need to someone who has a specialty in that area – like copywrite law.

For more insights, watch Gary Bruce discuss this topic on WTVM’s Legal Break in Columbus. Click here to view the link and learn more about Micky Mouse and his copywrite expiring!!