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Q: I recently tried to post a video of my child dancing to the radio on social media. When I posted the video I received a notification that my video contained copyrighted material and might expose me to liability for copyright infringement. How does a video I made of my kid dancing infringe on someone else’s copyright?

A: Copyright law is arguably the least understood and most often violated area of the law by most internet users. With all of the pictures, videos, and songs people share online, it is easy to accidentally infringe on another person’s copyright without knowing. Copyright is a kind of intellectual property right that is protected by state and federal law. Copyright largely covers creative works, such as songs, poems, novels, paintings, drawings, and even video games — basically, almost any kind of creative, intellectual, or artistic works.

Under federal law, a person is entitled to certain exclusive rights for their intellectual works merely by virtue of having created it. That means the owner of a copyright has exclusive rights to control the public display, recreation, and printing of his or her work, including the right to create derivative works, and that right lasts for the duration of the creator’s life plus an additional 70 years.

When you post a video of your kid dancing to music on the radio on the internet, you are putting the music contained therein on display for those who watch your video. So, even though you created the video, it contains the creative work of someone else made prior. When this is done without permission from the copyright holder of the music, it interferes with the copyright holder’s exclusive right to control public display and performance of their work.

In 1998, Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or the DMCA. The purpose of the DMCA is to regulate digital media and deal with copyright issues faced by copyright holders in the age of digital distribution online. Under the DMCA, internet service providers, or ISPs, are required to provide copyright holders opportunity to notify the ISP of any material the holder believes infringes their copyright.

ISPs often streamline this process by automatically identifying copyrighted media in new posts, such as preexisting songs, images, and videos contained in new posts made by users. When copyrighted media is identified, the ISP may notify both the uploader and the copyright holder of such identification. The copyright holder may then elect to have the post removed.

If you are concerned that you have infringed someone’s copyright, or that someone has infringed upon yours, it is always best to consult an attorney to consider your options moving forward.

Austin Allen is an attorney practicing in Idaho Falls. This column is provided by the 7th District Bar Association as a public service. Submit questions to “It’s the Law,” P.O. Box 50130, Idaho Falls, ID 83405, or by email to rfarnam@holdenlegal.com. This column is for general information. Readers with specific legal questions should consult an attorney. A lawyer referral service is provided by calling the Idaho State Bar Association in Boise at 208-334-4500.

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