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What is copyright? Can I be sued for using someone else’s work?

The concept of copyright and infringement is complex and often confusing.  Absent a statutory exception such as “fair use” one must obtain written permission from the creator of an original work of authorship to reproduce the creator’s work.

What is Fair Use Doctrine?

The “fair use doctrine” embodied in the Act of 1976, as amended, allows for the limited use of another’s original work of authorship, including quotes,. for purposes such as commentary, criticism, news reporting and scholarly reports.   But for this exception, any unauthorized use would be an infringement of the author’s rights in his or her original work of authorship.

How to Perfect a Copyright-  

 The current U.S. Copyright Act subsists in an original work of authorship upon its creation and fixation in a tangible form.  With certain exceptions copyright endures for the life of the author plus 70 years.  There is no renewal and at the expiration of the term, the work goes into the public domain for all to use.  Registration, while not required to perfect rights,

provides public record notice of ownership and is necessary to maintain a lawsuit for infringement in federal court.