Copyfraud refers to the act of claiming a copyright over content which is in the public domain. Such a claim is in violation of intellectual property laws such as the Copyright Act. This is because all material in the public domain can be used, modified, and reproduced by any person or entity. The act of claiming intellectual property protection through a copyright beyond what the copyright can legally offer is also defined as an act of copyfraud.
Regrettably, official measures against copyfraud are relatively limited. Oversight on the part of the authorities is often lacking. Legal consequences are often unjustifiably lenient in proportion to the actual scope of the offense committed. Therefore, in order to remain adequately protected against copyfraud, business owners should seek intellectual property protection for their copyrightable items. Doing so keeps those items out of the public domain.
Intellectual Property Violations Related to Copyfraud
The placing of a false claim of copyright on public domain content is an act of copyfraud. The enforcement of a copyright after its expiry is another form of copyfraud which abuses the intellectual property protection provided through a copyright.
Other copyright laws prohibit the use of false copyright claims. If fraudulent licensing fees are involved in a particular act of copyfraud, intellectual property laws are also violated by their requirement. Although the increased willingness to claim intellectual property protection by way of copyright does have many positive effects, it has also caused the overclaiming of copyrights to become more widespread than it has ever been. The relative difficulty of officially charging someone with copyfraud has exacerbated the problem.
Reasons for the Increase in Copyfraud
Incidents of copyfraud have seen a consistent uptick in recent times. This is partially because many violators have found that the wording of some laws pertaining to intellectual property protection is rather ambiguous. The increased prevalence of technology in society as well as the reliance on licensing agreements to govern copyrighted works have also indirectly facilitated copyfraud.
Additionally, many who have violated others’ rights granted via intellectual property protection by committing acts of copyfraud have unjustly threatened litigation. To exacerbate the issue, those who face legal action, no matter how unjust, often succumb to the dishonest copyright claims due to various extenuating factors such as financial cost and an imbalance of legal power which can be found in some intellectual property protection laws.
Of course, no matter the reasons which cause copyfraud to arise, all acts of copyfraud negatively impact affected business owners legally as well as financially.
Intellectual Property Protection for Defense Against Copyfraud
Intellectual property protection does not apply to items which are in the public domain and not copyrighted. Thus, when business owners claim a copyright for their items, they can then use this intellectual property protection to take measures against copyfraud.
Those who have experienced the negative effects of copyfraud might choose to send a cease-and-desist letter to violators. Others might also threaten litigation or require compensatory payments. However, even though copyright owners are within their rights to stand up for their intellectual property protection in these ways, they should be aware that many copyright laws do note necessarily provide adequate mechanisms for the enforcement of rights to protect against copyfraud. Thus, owners of the material should be vigilant at all times with regard to acts of copyfraud.
Partial Intellectual Property Protection and Copyfraud
It is possible for only a portion of any published work to receive intellectual property protection by way of a copyright. This is possible even if the published work is to be regarded as a single piece or if most of the published work is in the public domain. For example, a specific musical arrangement of a certain song might be copyrighted, but not the song itself. Similarly, a selection of images from an entire image gallery may be subject to copyright while others are in the public domain.
Owners of any copyrightable work risk exposing the work to copyfraud if they do not completely copyright it. Therefore, it is in their best interest to seek intellectual property protection for the entire work.
However, for various reasons, some owners of copyrightable works might not want to copyright the entire work. If they believe that the risks they might face such as the potential for legal difficulties are outweighed by the benefits of partial copyright protection, they might choose this option.
This article is brought to you by Exy Intellectual Property Malaysia and Singapore.