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Advice, Tech

What is Copyright Infringement and How to Avoid it

Copyright infringement is one of those things you always hear about but never actually know what they are. The thing is, you need to know all about copyright infringement if you’re in any business field. This way, you’ll get to avoid potential catastrophes that could be the end of your business days. Intellectual property protection, otherwise known as copyright infringement, is something you need to know more about if you plan on having any kind of success in your field.

Everything is copyrighted today. From the movies you watch to the books you read to the music you listen- they all have the little © on it. This keeps other people from stealing that intellectual property and claiming it for themselves. In a world with so many copyrighted entities, it’s essential to know how to avoid copyright infringement so that you can enjoy your success without worrying about other similar products or services.

This article will guide you through copyright infringement and help you achieve your goals more efficiently, make things clearer, and get you acquainted with the process.

1. What is copyright infringement exactly?

In short, copyright laws exist to protect the creators of original works. Creative expressions always need to be protected from others, which can otherwise take advantage of work that isn’t theirs and even make a profit out of it. All of this is, of course, done without permission. The idea behind copyright laws is that the author and creator owns all the rights to the work they created. Only they can decide how and if others use their creations.

In music, copyright exists for songwriters and their lyrics. They need to allow artists to record their words. In other words, there needs to be an agreement that outlines how the right to record is granted. This avoids copyright infringement as the songwriter has allowed the singer to record their words under the terms detailed in the agreement.

Another singer could record the same song without asking permission, which qualifies as copyright infringement. In this case, the songwriter has the right to take legal action against the artist who recorded their work without permission. Copyright infringement is stealing someone’s creative expressiveness.

2. Limitations

Just like everything else in life, copyright also has its limitations and exceptions. The limitations of copyright are mostly concerned with who can use specified materials for free and how that material should be handled. 

Libraries and archives, for example, may copy protected work if the purpose is to preserve the work in those same libraries and archives. Using materials for educational purposes is also permitted, and copyright doesn’t apply here. You can use protected work for learning, examination, and instruction. The materials can even be photocopied, played as part of the public’s education and enrichment, and performed.

Having temporary copies and back-ups of computer programs is also allowed. In this case, though, the first version of the program must be purchased and used lawfully. Only then will copyright infringement be avoided.

Finally, a specialized format is also free game. Reproducing and distributing protected work is a specialized format for people with disabilities that can never be considered infringement. 

3. Do your research

Reading about the copyright on a particular material or creative expression is always advisable. Just because something has copyright written all over it doesn’t mean that the artist isn’t willing to share it with the world. Most artists will be happy to share their work for a fee or proper attribution. 

If you read the license, you’ll often find the rules and terms of use. Reading and reviewing the license of the material you intended to use should be your first instinct. For example, if you licensed IP cartoons for office walls, you couldn’t use the same pictures online. 

If the license isn’t that clear to you or if it doesn’t state what you’re looking for, don’t be afraid to reach out to the artist. They’re probably going to be happy to share their work with you and will gladly strike up a deal with you. As well as that, reach out to your lawyer. They’ll be able to give you advice on how to proceed with the agreement with the artist. As well as that, they’ll tell you what you can and can’t ask of the artist and what the best way to use the material is. 

4. Assume there’s copyright

When you’re faced with an original work, you always ask yourself if there’s copyright. Debating whether to use the work or not comes down to how willing you are to take the risk of the work being copyrighted. If it is, you’re going to be in a lot of trouble, but if it’s not, you’ll end up with a fantastic product on your hands. Why risk it, though? 

Assume there’s copyright and act accordingly. This way, if the intellectual property is copyrighted, you won’t have to worry about getting into any sort of legal trouble. If it’s not, you had nothing to lose, and you made sure you were safe before using the creative expression.

The first thing you should do is to find if there’s an explicit statement confirming that the public can use the material. If you can’t find any sort of explicit information like that, there’s a very high chance that someone already owns the rights to the material you’re trying to use. 

Getting written consent from the copyright holder is always the best course of action in these situations. This way, you can use the original material without any worries. You should make an effort to contact the person or entities who own the copyright. Make a deal with them, and feel free to negotiate the use of the material.

5. Source materials

Finding photos and music that you can use freely without worrying about copyright is always a challenge. Often enough, you find the work you think would be perfect for your purposes, only to find out that it’s copyrighted and that you can’t use it at all. Is all intellectual property copyrighted, though? Not exactly.

There are free source materials under the public domain that you can use however you like. These images, videos, and music files are not copyrighted and can be used by anyone. No matter what you may be doing, checking under the public domain for the material you need is always a good idea. 

A common misconception is that these free materials are not suitable. That’s simply not true. It’s been proven time and time again that they’re just what most people need for their projects and works. Sure, you may not be getting the most original content out there, but it’s still valuable, beautiful, and will serve its purpose well.

6. Find fair use

Though things seem pretty straightforward, IP infringement laws do have some exceptions. One of those exceptions is called fair use. This is often associated with the field of education. The concept of this exception is that using photos or articles for educational and non-promotional purposes is exempted from infringement. 

In other words, you can take advantage of original works if you can’t obtain consent only if you use them for non-commercial purposes. The best way to avoid copyright infringement in this sense is to ask yourself how taking and using someone else’s work will influence its value on the market. If you find that it won’t impact it at all, the chances are that you don’t need to worry about copyright infringement. 

Of course, it’s always advisable to be extra cautious and ask for legal advice. If you can’t figure it out on your own, talk to someone who knows more about the law than you. A lawyer will be able to give you solid advice on what to do and will keep you out of any kind of legal trouble. 

7. Create your work

The best way to avoid copyright infringement is definitely to create your work. If you have any artistic skill, put it to good use. No matter what kind of work you need for a certain project you have, you can always make it yourself. Not only will you avoid copyright infringement this way, but you will also have something original and extremely creative that anyone would be proud of. Putting in extra effort in whatever you do can also make the final product more valuable to you. When we put our best into a project, we’re always rewarded with something amazing.

With all of this in mind, not everyone has artistic talent. This doesn’t give you the right to steal from someone who does, though. Instead of worrying about copyright infringement and asking yourself if you’ve done something wrong, you should consider teaming up with someone who does have artistic talent.

It can be a friend who’s extremely talented and willing to help, or it can be a professional. Asking a favor or paying someone to bring your vision into the real world is always a good idea. This way, you’ll get the exact product you wanted, without having to worry about the law.

8. Examples

If you’re still not sure what copyright infringement is and what it entails, maybe things will be easier to understand in some cases. One of the most typical examples is using music in personal videos. If you haven’t obtained permission to use a song for background music for home movies, business presentations, or your work, the copyright owner has the right to take legal action. Today, video-sharing networks actively work on flagging videos that don’t have permission to use specific songs. 

In other cases, creators put their work online. That work can be downloaded for a fee. Downloading a movie, music, TV shows, e-books, or software from a website that’s not owned by the creator is considered copyright infringement. The non-authorized sites usually encourage users to share the same materials with others. With or without your knowledge, these websites make you redistribute copyrighted content against the owner’s wishes.

Not everything is a copyright infringement, though. It all depends on the purpose for which you’re using the material. For example, you’re allowed to record shows at home on your TV if you intended to watched them later. It only becomes infringement if you want to share the copied material with other people or if you copy the material to sell it and profit from it. Broadcasting and posting the video online is also considered infringement.

If your job or project has anything to do with posters, flyers, brochures, or websites, pay attention to the kind of material you use. Photographs, graphics, and artwork are all considered copyright infringement if they’re used in promotional materials without permission. The intellectual properties can’t be used for marketing campaigns unless the artwork is bought or the creators are paid a certain fee. On the same note, using the artwork for specific purposes, like putting it on t-shirts, is also copyright infringement, even if you bought the artwork beforehand. This is, of course, under the presumption that the creator didn’t permit you to use their work for merchandise.

Finally, copying someone’s work and claiming it for your own even if theirs inspired your work is an infringement. To be more specific, this is called plagiarism in the publishing and music industry. Copyright infringement can be subject to a lot of conditions. The litigations are decided on several factors, and the legal proceedings can be tricky, which is why you should always get advice from a professional when faced with a copyright dilemma.


As you can see, copyright infringement is pretty straightforward and doesn’t need to be that complicated. If you do your research and pay attention to your field, you’ll have no trouble reaching your goals and living the life you always wanted to live. Doing things properly and not taking shortcuts is key to lasting success. 

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