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I Do Not Own This Story

When Rights to Own Get Confused With Rights to Copy

It seems that “copyright” has always been a subject of some controversy, largely due to the disputes we have all seen about ownership over some intellectual property. Hence, copyright itself becomes identified with ownership and, further, with only the subject of law.

Interestingly enough, many people have not only confused it to mean “ownership” in essence, but have relegated it to a mere, legal term denoting “ownership title” or documentation, and have even gone so far as believing that, without legal certification, no one owns anything.

Nothing, however, could be more distant from “copyright” in its true meaning.

Copyright, after all, is not very complex and is actually something much more basic. It is not a legal instrument. It is a fundamental right predicated upon previously-established ownership and itself does not have much to do with entitlement. It signifies just one basic right of the true author of the work: the right to copy.

The most blatant copyright infringements are committed by those without ill intent…

The most apparent or obvious copyright violations make one think they are only the work of “criminals” by and large. Even more interesting, however, are those that are perpetrated unknowingly. Here is where common violations happen, humorously exemplary of copyright definition ignorance.

The most obvious example is something I am sure you have seen yourself, repeatedly. Before you can “get the joke” however, a clear understanding of the word “copyright” and its application are essential, at least as they apply in practice every day in music and media.

If ‘Copyright’ Isn’t ‘Ownership’ What IS It?

According to Dictionary.com, the word “copy” means “an imitation, reproduction, or transcript of an original” and is from a Latin word meaning wealth or abundance.

The word “right” means “a just claim or title, whether legal, prescriptive, or moral” and pretty much meant the same thing down through the ages.

“Copyright” has a few connotations, several misdefinitions and altered meanings but, essentially, is defined as:

“the exclusive right to make copies, license, and otherwise exploit a literary, musical, or artistic work, whether printed, audio, video, etc…” This definition goes on to explain how it came into law in 1978, to essentially protect this right.

Here is “copyright” in its purest form. The right to make copies, the right to exploit, all of these things are the exclusive right of the creator. It implies the action, not of ownership, (which is already implied as a basic requirement to obtain copyright) but of the action of what is DONE with the owned work. The decisions on what to do with a work are entirely the right of the author.

Make the distinction here that this does not say anything about law. It specifically uses the word “right” as in, it is your right to do so. As a matter of fact, “copyright” is covered by the 30 listed rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, pioneered by Eleanor Roosevelt and forwarded and endorsed by the United Nations.

Rights are rights, no laws required. So, Law is not involved in this.

Copyright is your exclusive right to copies of your work; registering your copyright only provides written proof…

This is also not to be confused with “registering” your copyright, a most common misconception. Copyright and registering your copyright are two different things.

The process of “copyrighting” is shorthand slang for registering your copyright (your inherent right to the property) officially in the Library of Congress, which makes record of the fact. It is important that you understand that it is not this process that grants you the copyright. It is merely a registration and is useful in many legal contexts. The right belonged to you, however, from the moment you created the work, and regardless of whether or not you “copyrighted” it (registered your copyright with the Library of Congress).

Now that this is understood, you can get the punchline!

I have seen many a video posted on YouTube, that were the intellectual property and copyright of someone else, where the YouTube user took the time to, in his estimation, “be moral” and do what he felt was protecting the copyright of the author of the original video, by writing in the description:

“I do not own this video.” “This video is the copyright of Warner Brothers (or some such agency)”

That’s when I laugh, if merely in disbelief. For it is anything but funny. What has the person just said with that statement? In that a copyright is the right of an individual to control the copying, duplicating, exploiting, etc of his intellectual property, this person has just admitted to infringement of the original copyright.

The irony is in that such people apparently do this to protect the copyright when it is actually a blatant violation.

Copyright Is There to Protect You, Not Restrict You…

Simple. Copyright is considered by many to simply mean “ownership” and, while this is part of it, ownership itself, of anything, includes the right of control of how a thing is used, possessed, transferred or copied.

Ownership then, though considered to be an entitlement claim, is actually much more. It carries the right to control and direct the use of something one has created.

What have you written? A poem? A story? A blog? A video? A song? Whatever it is, you do not need a law or a registration to validate that the copyright is yours. From the moment you create it, you own it and control it. Laws are there to protect your rights. Your rights are your rights and they are yours to keep.

The fact that you do not own a work (video, piece of writing, etc) means that you have no right to copy it (exploit, distribute, post, etc.) Giving credit to the artist or owner does not excuse your exploitation of the work. Only exclusive permission from the originator can give you license. Remember that.

Recognize that when YouTube takes down a video you posted that is someone else’s intellectual property, they are doing what they can to protect exclusive content from infringement, a protection you may find yourself needing one day.

Think about it.

Just get permission from the artist or publisher…

If you just simply obtain permission, it is an okay practice to exploit such works. Sometimes it costs a small fee in royalty and sometimes it may even cost nothing at all. The point is, you would want the same courtesy and protection for your own work. This is the whole reason for the Library of Congress copyright registration office. We all can do our parts too. Let’s keep people’s copies of their works in their control.

I hope you got the joke. And, by the way, I was being ironic; I DO own this article 😉

©2014 Frank Sardella. All Rights Reserved. (See? It’s true!)

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