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More about FirstPerson and copyrights

By submitting content to MSNBC, you acknowledge and agree to the following terms:

All materials submitted to MSNBC (the “Submissions”) become the property of MSNBC and will not be returned. Without affecting any of your ownership rights to the Submission, by submitting your Submission, you grant MSNBC an irrevocable royalty-free, worldwide right, in all media (now known or later developed) to use, publish, alter or otherwise exploit your Submission and to sublicense such rights to a licensee at MSNBC’s discretion. You hereby forever release MSNBC and any of its licensees from any and all claims you might have in connection with its use and exhibit of your Submission as set forth above. You also agree to sign (your parent or legal guardian if you are a minor in your state or Province) any necessary documentation to effectuate that license and release. Your Submission must be your own original work and, by submitting your Submission, you represent and warrant that: it is your sole original work; and you have obtained any and all consents, approvals or licenses required for you to submit your Submission (including obtaining the written consent of all 3rd parties, where applicable). Your submission must not contain material which is violent, pornographic or otherwise obscene, illegal or racially or otherwise morally offensive. You agree to indemnify and hold harmless MSNBC, its parents, subsidiaries and affiliated companies, each of their respective licensees, successors and assigns, and each of their respective employees, agents, representatives, officers and directors from and against any and all claims, losses, costs, damages, liabilities, losses, costs and expenses (including, without limitation, attorneys; fees) which arise out of any breach of this agreement or any of these covenants, agreements, obligations, rights, representations or warranties set forth herein. You waive any claim of infringement (including without limitation copyright, trademark, patent, trade name, trade secret, etc.) against MSNBC or its licensees based upon access to or use of your Submission.

You further acknowledge and agree that:

Submissions are reviewed by MSNBC staff members and published at their discretion. MSNBC is not obligated to use the submission. Your e-mail address will only be used to notify me if/when my content has been published on OR if MSNBC editorial needs to contact you with questions about your content You agree to the terms of MSNBC's Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions. (and we'll hot link them here)

If you do not want to grant MSNBC these rights, please do not submit your content to MSNBC.

Copyright law protects original works, such as websites, books, music, paintings, photos and video.  A work is “original” if it contains some elements you created and did not borrow from others.  Typically, when you create an original work, you own the copyright.  As the copyright owner, you can control how others use your work.  For example, if you write a movie script, you have the right to, and can prevent others from, copying your script, sharing it with others (“distributing it”), making a movie or book from your script (a “derivative work”), or  publicly performing your script as a play or movie.  You also have the ability to sell or give away these rights.  In other words, you could sell the right to make a movie based on your script to a movie studio. 

If you use someone else’s copyrighted materials without permission, that use generally violates the copyright owner's exclusive rights, and is copyright infringement.  So if you create a new work and include parts of other people’s works in it (such as an existing photo, lengthy quotes from a book or a loop from a song), you must own or have permission to use the elements you borrow.  For example, if your script is based on an existing popular series, you should obtain permission to use the elements you borrow from the series.

Copyright law is different from the law of personal property.  If you buy a physical object, such as a movie on DVD, you own the physical object.  You do not, however, obtain ownership of the “copyrights” (the rights to make copies, distribute, make derivatives and publicly perform or display) in the content of the movie.  The fact that you have obtained physical possession of a DVD, does not automatically grant you the right to copy or share it.

Movies that you make could have many copyrighted works in them.  So, if you decide to make a movie based on your script, you must either create all elements of it on your own, or have permission to use the elements you borrow.   Especially keep in mind that photos or artwork hanging on the walls of your sets and music on the soundtrack (even if you own the CD or MP3) may be copyrighted.  You should not include copyrighted works such as these in your movie without authorization.    

A few other things to keep in mind are:

Just because a work does not include a copyright notice (e.g., © 2006 Microsoft Corporation) does not mean the work is in the public domain. 

Copyright notices are generally not required for works to be protected by copyright.

Just because a work is easily available on the Internet or elsewhere does not mean you may use the work freely.  

Look for terms of use, such as Creative Commons, that explain how works you find on the Internet may be used.

Just because a work is freely available, does not mean it is in the “public domain.”  Copyright is for a limited term; it does not last forever.  In the copyright context, “public domain” means the copyright term has expired.  Once a work is in the public domain, it may be freely used without permission from the copyright owner. 

Determining the term of copyright can be complex, particularly because copyright laws vary from country to country.  Also, even if the copyright on a work has expired, you should be careful about how you use a public domain work.  For example, a book may be in the public domain, but it might not be ok to scan the book cover to cover and post it on the internet.  This is because the particular version of the book may contain new copyrightable material that is not in the public domain, such as cover art or footnotes. 

In limited situations, you can use copyrighted works without permission from the copyright holder.  It can be difficult to figure out whether use of copyrighted works without permission is legal, though, because the laws in this area are often vague and vary from country to country. 

The copyright law in the United States has a doctrine called “fair use”.  Fair use provides a defense to copyright infringement in some circumstances.  For example, fair use allows documentary filmmakers to use very short clips of copyrighted movies, music and news footage without authorization from the copyright owner.  Fair use is a difficult concept because determining whether something is a fair use involves weighing four factors.  Unfortunately, weighing the fair use factors rarely results in a clear-cut answer.

Rather than applying a fair use test, many other countries have specific exceptions to copyright infringement.  The number and type of exceptions vary by country, but they typically allow copyrighted materials to be used without permission from the copyright holder for activities such as nonprofit research, teaching, news reporting, or private study.

If you incorrectly decide that something is a fair use or falls into an exception to copyright infringement, you could be held criminally and civilly liable and have to pay damages.  We suggest you talk to a lawyer if you have questions regarding fair uses of copyrighted works. 

By law, we are required to take down videos, music, photographs or other content you upload if we learn that it infringes someone else’s copyright. If you believe that we have mistakenly taken down content you uploaded that you own or have permission to upload, you can also let us know that. Finally, if you upload infringing content repeatedly, either at MSNBC or elsewhere, you could face criminal and civil penalties.  So please, respect the copyrights of others.

If you believe that anything on MSNBC infringes your copyright, let us know. Just provide us with the information requested and we will see that your copyrighted works are taken down.