Unauthorized use of a work protected by copyright is referred to as copyright infringement. Thus, it is the unauthorised use of someone else’s copyrighted work that violates the owner’s rights, such as the right to reproduce, distribute, exhibit, or perform the protected work. In this blog we will take a look at best practices to avoid copyright infringement.
Section 51 of the Copyright Act states that copyright infringement occurs when:
The primary objective of copyright is to encourage and compensate creators for disseminating their original works. Copyrighted materials can provide income for creators, who also get due credit. Additionally, they have the final say in how their work is published, broadcast, streamed, adapted, and exhibited. Exclusive rights may inspire producers to produce more works to share with the public. Because their effort might be beneficial for the improvement of their life, the general public may also profit from it. However, authors are not required to make their work accessible to the public. Even so, unpublished works are safeguarded by the same copyright regulations. Additionally, creators are not needed to file a copyright registration with the US Copyright Office.
They can obtain copyright protection without adding a copyright symbol © to their work, and doing so won’t diminish the value of their original creation.
How to prevent copyright infringement
With today’s technology, it is very simple to copy and share the original works of other people. However, the costs in terms of time, money, sanity, and peace of mind of exploiting unauthorized content will not be worth it. The following Practices will help you stay clear of copyright infringement and keep yourself out of legal jeopardy.
Assume that copyright will always exist.
It is safer to presume that all works of authorship are covered by copyright regulations. There’s a significant probability that someone already owns the rights to the content even if you cannot locate an explicit declaration stating that it is intended for public use. It would be preferable to obtain written authorization from the copyright owners before using the original content. To negotiate its use or to strike an agreement, make an effort to contact the relevant party or parties.
Before using a third-party IP, read up on it and do some research.
Recognize the subtleties of fair use
If you can’t get permission, you can still freely use original work for non-commercial purposes if you are aware of your rights under fair use. But you must take into account a few factors that could influence your utilisation. Before using someone else’s creation, consider how your actions will affect its market worth. Always exercise caution and, if in doubt, seek legal advice on copyright regulations.
Public domain resources as a starting point
There are several places where you can find public domain content that is free to use. Look for those that have Creative Commons licensing so they can be used commercially.
Make your own or purchase original art from someone else.
Instead of plagiarising or borrowing from the work of others, you can develop your own materials if you have the necessary creative or artistic abilities. You can hire other people to be the makers if you have the financial means to do so. If this is the case, you will still be the owner of the copyright for “works done for hire” or those that fall under the purview of your employment or creative contract.
Do not copy anything.
Although it may seem simple, the best thing you can do in your practice to prevent copyright lawsuits is to not reproduce any past work. 99 percent of infringement accusations can be avoided by following this straightforward guideline.
Avoid access to prior design work.
Avoid any design work that has been done previously for a piece of property or for the client in general. Stay with your original plans. Inform your client not to send you any work that was completed without your participation. If they try to offer you something, respectfully inquire as to what it is, avoid looking at it, and either decline to accept it or return it unopened with a clear declaration as to their goodwill. You should try to be as selective as you can when gathering information for your work. Record what you saw. If you never saw anything in the first place, you cannot be accused of copying it.
Document right to use.
If you have to evaluate any previous work, you should take the precautionary and uncommon step of asking your customer to provide you with proof of their authorization to utilize such resources. Prior agreements that grant the right to use, communications that acknowledge the right, or even formal licence agreements may demonstrate this. When there is a document authorising authorization to use the earlier materials, it is challenging for a plaintiff to maintain an infringement claim. If your customer is unable or unwilling to give you this documentation, it should be a huge warning sign.
Enhance the warranty and indemnity provisions through negotiation.
If you need to review any previous work completed for a location or project, have the client gather that information and give it to you. You should negotiate clauses into your contracts with the client that offer enhanced warranties and indemnity in addition to the rights-of-use paperwork mentioned above. The client must expressly and succinctly guarantee that any information given to the design expert is legal to utilise. This should be accompanied by an indemnity agreement requiring the customer to defend and hold the design expert blameless from any allegations of infringement brought up by owning or using the preceding work.
Document your own work.
Last but not least, you must document your own effort. The Independent Creation Doctrine, sometimes referred to as a defence but really a denial of any copying, is recognised by copyright law. In a nutshell, you must demonstrate that you did not plagiarise and that, instead, you independently developed your own product.