While most people are aware of at least one major copyright infringement taking place within popular culture, there are still many misconceptions about copyright law. Understanding what is fact and what is fiction when it comes to this topic can prevent you from inadvertently using copyrighted material inappropriately. It can also help you recognize when your material is being infringed upon.
Items can be copyrighted without being registered
Simply expressing an idea or concept is not enough to make it your own. The concept must be developed and made tangible before it is eligible for copyright. Additionally, the item becomes protected as soon as it becomes tangible. As an example, if you write a book and it is published, another party is not permitted to recreate the book all or in part for personal gain.
However, if you wish to sue another party for infringing on your copyright, you must present a certificate of registration. Additionally, the item must have been copyrighted within three months of it being published for your suit to proceed. This highlights the importance of registering your works immediately, even with the automatic protection afforded.
Using only a percentage of protected material is allowed
Fair use laws allow protected material to be reproduced for certain purposes. For example, a news program can use quotes from published work when presenting a story, while schools can read aloud from certain books for the purpose of instructing students. Fair use is only allowed in certain situations, however, and the use of protected material outside of these situations is a violation of the law.
This use is illegal no matter how much of the content is used. There is no allowable percentage of material that you are permitted to use before copyright laws become applicable. If your usage does not fall into one of the accepted uses you can be sued for breach of copyright. If you want to use something, you must seek permission from the creator.