Illustration by Megan Bender.

OPINION: Invest in your work so it stays yours

Filing for copyrights as a student

Filing for copyrights as a student

Creative brains in colleges have it easy. Musicians, photographers, artists and writers are reaping the benefits of infringing on copyright laws. They’re also at risk of being taken advantage of because of it.

Famous creators making money off their works have bigger fish to fry than college students, but this does not make infringing on copyright laws okay.

Through federal law, copyright allows protection for authors and users of original pieces of intellectual property. Creative students of any sort must understand copyright laws to respect their inspiration, as well as protecting themselves.

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, copyright infringement happens when “a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner.”

Even if it doesn’t mean much in the way of following this rule, it is important to at least clarify when sharing or using creative work that is not your property. Understanding why should also encourage students to protect their own work.

The second an idea is created in a tangible form, it is protected by copyright law. However, anyone hoping to start a lawsuit must have their work registered with the the government in order to enforce or fight for that protection.

In the age of social media where anything can be instantly reproduced, distributed, perform or be publicly displayed, copyright protection is vital. Protecting intellectual property could be in the best interest of students. The catch is that it costs money.

The good news is, to copyright one piece of original work costs as much as a week of coffee, a full tank of gas or a good night out.

Intellectual property lawyer Nicholas Wells, who lays out the price of registering your work with Congress, said to register one piece of work should cost a simple filing fee of $35 dollars. This fee applies to one piece of original works, as opposed to a collection of works. As easy as that sounds, filling out the paperwork may require research and can be difficult if attempted for the first time. In this case, hiring help from a lawyer could cost way more than a college student budget will allow.

More good news is, resources like a school library or willing professors are easily accessible to a college student. With some proper research or help from an experienced professor or advisor, the cost of a lawyer can be avoided.

Students wondering why they should go through the trouble should take a look at how easy it can be for someone to rip off someone else.

Take the issues forming between Radiohead and Lana Del Rey. The music industry makes a lot of money through owning the rights to intellectual property. At first listen of Del Rey’s song “Get Free,” it appears she has clearly taken a heavy melody influence from Radiohead’s “Creep.” Legal conversations between Del Rey’s people and Radiohead’s people are centered around giving credit to the writers of “Creep,” rather than suing for profit. Though Del Rey tweeted otherwise, as reported in the Guardian, a lawsuit has still not been initiated.

Upon further investigation to the song “Creep,” Radiohead had to pay for the rights to their own song after being sued by a band from the 1960s known as The Hollies. The similarities between melodies in “Creep” and The Hollies song, “The Air That I Breathe,” granted The Hollies grounds to suit.

There are plenty of other examples of copyright lawsuits of music, art, photography and more. This proves that it can be increasingly difficult to fight for these rights without taking the proper legal actions to protect them. The earlier you start, the better, and possibly richer, you will be as a professional.

There is arguably room to be inspired from others and their works, but social media makes it difficult to keep track of how much something is shared or re-purposed.

Protecting the work created during this time of learning could benefit a student’s actual career. Understanding the legal limitations of the platform is equally as important.

Further, understanding copyright protection means maintaining ownership of intellectual property. The creative foundation any artist, author or creator who needs to make something of themselves is worth protecting.

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