Can Copyrighted Material Be Used in Advertising?

BlogCopyright    September 4, 2019
Copyright Registration Posted On

Advertising undoubtedly is as old as commerce and civilization, but the ways it was being done previously and now are quite different. Traditionally, people were used to promulgate their products and services on clay tablets, through town criers, etc. However, due to advancements in technology, people nowadays have switched to new methods to advertise their business. In present times, firms prefer attracting potential customers by using brochures, pamphlets, billboards, online communications, commercial text messages, email advertisements, and several other advertising tools.

Considering the availability of multiple ways to make products visible to target consumers and increase their sales, more and more businesses are continuously turning towards advertising, thus making the industry more competitive day-by-day. Apart from being competitive, most entrepreneurs and SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises), find advertising to be a costly affair and beyond their budget. The human tendency to make quick profits with no or little investment in the cut-throat challenging era is misleading people to advertise their business by using others’ copyrighted products. Nevertheless, this type of advertising may result in legal Copyright Infringement issues. That’s why IP authorities have made some rules to help people in using such materials but without infringing anyone’s Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs). So before planning to use a copyrighted item, understand how you can use copyrighted material in advertising.

Copyright Law and Advertising

Copyright law provides the creator with exclusive rights over his original work and prohibits others from using that work. It generally limits people from profiting themselves by accessing someone else’s material without seeking permission. As per the law, if a person violates someone’s copyright, he or she may be sued for infringing Intellectual Property and could have to pay huge damages. Likewise, other industries, the same law applies to the advertising field as well. Hence, if you want to advertise your business by using others’ work, then obtain comprehensive information that lets you do so safely, i.e., without coming across legal concerns.

Some copyrighted material that people often want to use in advertising encompasses:

  • Art
  • Photographs
  • Song recordings
  • Pieces of literature.

Copyright Basics

Copyright Law are territorial bound and therefore, vary from country to country. That’s why before attempting to use any work in advertising, be sure to know its copyright status in that specific nation. According to the copyright law in the US, tangible items made after 1978 are scheduled to get the Copyright Protection automatically. The owners neither have to register their works nor need to display a copyright symbol on them. On the other hand, works created before 1978 must be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office or display a copyright symbol.

Now, after being aware of the status of the item you want to use, let’s get familiar with the types of possible use.

Commercial Use

Most advertisements emphasize the commercial use of copyrighted work. Assuredly, such sort of usage is not allowed without the owners’ permission. However, the old materials published before 1923 are considered as public domain and therefore, can be used in commercials. Copyright protection for works published after 1923 commonly lasts for 120 years from the time of creation or 95 years from the day of publication. You can use these items after the copyrights’ expiry date.

Fair Use

Fair use is a remarkable exception to U.S. copyright laws. It allows people to use others’ works if they appear advantageous for the public, in cultural activities, or in the educational contexts. Although advertisements may not be cultured, they can be educational and beneficial to the people. For instance, an ad designed to make people familiar with the harmful effects of smoking can use materials, like a quote, sentence, etc., from a medical textbook. Educational ads related to bullying and drug use also fall under fair use. Undoubtedly, the Fair Use Doctrine allows you to use copyrighted material but on conditions that your advertising purpose is clear and you’ll use the snippets of that item.

Note that there is no clear law for how much of a copyrighted item one can use, for example – sometimes, you are permitted to use a few lines of a copyrighted book, but not a few pages.

Permission for Use

This section means that to use a copyrighted work in your advertising, you have to get a license that may be available in exchange for a fee. Here, there is a need to determine the person who will grant permission to use the material. You can do this by locating the copyright rights’ owner, who may or may not be the original creator of the work. To find the owner, you can see the name next to the copyright symbol; however, if there’s no symbol, search for the owner’s name on the U.S. Copyright Office website. The owner of lesser-known work, like a self-published book, may welcome the publicity and permit you to use it only in exchange for having his or her name somewhere in your advertisement. In such cases, you can make the profits from using the work without paying anything.

Advertisements are common targets for copyright infringement cases. A single mistake while using copyrighted materials in your ads can make you face costly legal penalties. Hopefully, the above-given information can help you to advertise your products without any legal trouble. From today onwards, be sure to launch any advertising campaign only after satisfying both an IP perspective and a general legal perspective. For more visit: 

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