To what extent does copyright protect internet content such as blog comments, tweets, and online reviews? That’s the topic of this blog series. In this Part One of the series, I share a few copyright basics.
When Does Copyright Protection for Internet Content Begin?
Under current United States law, you have a valid copyright as soon as you create your work. You are the copyright owner of any original work you post online – provided that your content is eligible for copyright protection. Registration with the U.S. Copyright Office is not required for you to hold a valid copyright in your online work; however, registration does provide a number of benefits. With some limited exceptions such as copyright fair use, the copyright owner is the sole person who may use the copyrighted work or authorize others to use it.
What Does Copyright Law Protect?
In copyright jargon, copyright protects original works of authorship that are written down, recorded, or otherwise fixed. It takes very little to meet the originality threshold for copyright protection. Your work is original as long as you do not copy it from another source. That means copyright protection extends to a variety of offline and online works including books, poems, magazine articles, artwork, songs, sound recordings, designs and, of course, websites and other online materials.
What Does Copyright Law NOT Protect?
Not everything is eligible for copyright protection. Things that are not eligible for copyright protection include the following:
Ideas. Ideas are not protected by copyright but the expression of the idea is. Unfortunately, separating the “idea” from the “expression of the idea” is often subjective and not necessarily intuitive.
Names/Titles/Short Phrases. Names, titles, and short phrases lack the originality and creativity required for copyright protection. However, under certain conditions, they may be protected by other areas of law such as trademark and unfair competition laws.
Facts. While raw facts by themselves are not copyrightable, a compilation of facts may be eligible for copyright protection. Hence, a website that presents factual data – such as daily deals available for products across the internet – does not hold a copyright in the data itself but might have a copyright in the way it compiles or presents the data.
In the next posting of this blog series, I’ll discuss who owns the user comments on a blog.