Intellectual Property Do's and Don'ts*

Clearances, Fair Use, and Distribution Agreements


1. Make sure you obtain proper written permission before using copyrighted material. If several people contributed to the material, you must make sure that each has granted permission. Music typically involves several types of licenses, and thus several levels of permission. Permission is almost always limited to specific uses and time frames, so be sure to read agreements carefully.

2. "Fair use" is limited to small portions of an original work when used for criticism, parody, editorial, and educational noncommercial purposes. Since this is not well defined, if the copyright holder can claim that the amount or nature of the material exceeded fair use, and the use can result in legal action.

Protecting Your Intellectual Property

1. Ideas can't be legally protected, only original expressions of ideas.

2. Include a copyright notice on all copies of copyrightable material. You may also want to go the extra step of registering your copyrightable works with the U.S. Copyright Office prior to distribution. If the work is being distributed internationally via the Internet, consider foreign copyright registration.

3. Keep records of where your materials are being sent, monitor their use for infringement, and take immediate action if infringement is discovered.

* Based on information provided by Media/Professional Insurance.

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