The history of copyright started when the first copyright law was passed under the Statute of Anne 1710, otherwise known as the Copyright Act.
Back in the 18th century, when it was first created, it was a fairly straightforward law and only protected the rights of an author for two years. After the two year mark, if an author did not renew their copyright, their work became public domain and could be used by any printer to profit from.
However, things have gotten quite a bit more complicated since the first copyright laws were passed nearly 300 years ago. And today, understanding your rights as an author or creator can be an extremely complicated concept.
Still, one thing that is clear about current copyright laws is that they have only become stricter and more restrictive than ever before. In fact, in most countries today, copyright remains in place for several decades after an author’s death.
The Landscape of Today’s Copyright Law
Today, technology has made the publication and dissemination of information much easier than ever before. With the internet, for example, we’re able to instantly send photos, videos, text, and other types of media to anywhere in the world in only a matter of seconds.
Entire books, encyclopedias, and anthologies have been digitised to share and preserve knowledge that’s often been protected and isolated from public usage for centuries. Also, processes such as online streaming and torrenting have made it easier than ever for information to be spread around the internet.
But, as we all know, once something is released onto the world wide web, it’s practically impossible to get it back. Still, that hasn’t stopped authors and copyright owners from trying to protect their rights.
In fact, in recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of copyright infringement lawsuits around the world.
Streaming, Torrenting, and Copyright Law
As you can probably guess, downloading or uploading any form of copyright material is considered illegal in most countries. However, this hasn’t stopped the public from streaming and torrenting massive amounts of copyright material.
Today, it’s estimated that copyright infringement could be costing the U.S. economy upwards to $250 billion every year. Although there has been a lot of controversy as to whether that number is accurate, one thing is certain: there has been a rise in authorities cracking down on copyright infringement.
Many countries around the world have now banned access to popular file sharing websites such as The Pirate Bay. And in the U.S., thousands of people have been sued for downloading and sharing movies, music, and other content illegally.
Most of the time, these lawsuits against individuals don’t stick. However, if you’re unlucky enough to get caught, you could end up facing hefty fines and even potential jail time depending on the amount of material that you’ve pirated.
Avoiding Copyright Infringement
Before you use any material that isn’t your own, it’s vital first to make sure and check its copyright status. As a general rule of thumb, when a website or source doesn’t make it clear that their content is free to use, then you should probably assume that it’s copyright material.
It’s important to be aware of what is protected under copyright law, as well as what isn’t. So, it’s always a good idea to do your research and check on a work’s copyright status before using it. Also, you should always assume that a work is protected under copyright law unless you can prove that it isn’t. And if you do decide to use another author’s material, it’s important to credit the original author to avoid allegations of plagiarism.
Always keep in mind that facts and ideas are generally not protected. However, material such as paintings, drawings, photographs, films, music, software, and literary works are always subject to copyright law.
Never assume something isn’t protected by law simply because it was found on the internet. Many times, works have already been used or plagiarised without the original author’s permission, and by assuming that something is free for reuse, you’re just as guilty as the last person who used the work.
You should also never share, upload, or download any type of material without the copyright owner’s explicit permission.
When it comes to protecting yourself from infringing upon copyright laws, there’s really only two things you can do:
- Avoid pirating content through illegal streaming or torrenting completely.
- Use a VPN to hide your digital footprint.
It’s also important to remember that copyright law varies significantly from one country to the next. Therefore, you should know your local laws to understand what is and isn’t protected.
Today, technologies, such as the internet and online file sharing, have drastically changed today’s copyright landscape. And as a result, laws have needed to tighten up in order to safeguard author rights and protect their material.