How can writers avoid copyright enfringement?

Whenever copying or adapting creative works made by someone else, writers should be aware that copyright law might restrict how or whether the writer can lawfully proceed.

In general, lawfully copying, distributing, displaying, performing, or adapting the copyrighted work of another person — or even only a small portion of such a work — will require either:

  • Permission from the copyright owner (that is, a license).
  • An applicable legal limitation of or exception to copyright law that allows the use (such as fair use or fair dealing).

Some creative work is in the public domain, and not subject to copyright restrictions — for instance, where the copyright has expired, or (in the United States) where the work was made by the U.S. Government.

Rules surrounding copyright expiration can be complicated and are very often country specific, so it’s worth taking a moment to doublecheck that a given work’s copyright has actually expired where you are.

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