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Equal Employment Opportunity Laws

Describe the position, not the person! Under Equal Employment Opportunity Laws, discriminatory practices are illegal. All publishers should publish a notice (at the beginning of the employment advertising section) which includes a statement supporting the prohibition of discrimination in employment practices. For more information about Equal Opportunity Laws, click here.




A Guide to Fair Housing Advertising

Describe the property, not the preferred buyer or renter! Under the Fair Housing Act, it is the policy of the United States to provide, within constitutional limitations, fair housing throughout the United States. The provisions of the Fair Housing Act make it unlawful to discriminate in the sale, rental, and financing of housing because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin. For more information about fair housing advertising, click here..



A useful set of facts about copyright
written for newspaper publishers

By Alice Lucan — MDDC Legal Hotline Attorney

Here’s a collection of copyright "stuff" you may have heard something about, but it’s never been clear or clearly understood. It is for newspaper publishers, but nothing discussed here changes for works published on the web.

When does Copyright Protection Start?
A work that is original and creative and fixed in a tangible form of expression has copyright protection — an ownership interest — at the instant it is fixed, recorded on paper, film, in concrete, in some electronic fashion, in other words, in any fixed medium, including electronic media.
Copyright notice is no longer required, though the law still encourages placing notice on any work because it avoids confusion. It used to be that copyright notice was required and any work published without notice could possibly fall into the public domain where anyone could use it. That is no longer true.

MUST We Register for Copyright Protection?
In spite of a clear ownership right, the copyright owner can’t get in to a federal court unless the work is registered with the Register of Copyrights. That’s an anomaly: Yes, you have protection but no, you can’t enforce the protection. This was Congress’ way of forcing authors and artists to place their works with the Library of Congress.
Thanks to the Newspaper Association of American, the Register of Copyrights has devised an easy way for daily newspapers to register by using microfilm copies of the newspaper. Use Form GD/N. Find it and an explanation on

Now pay attention to this: You have three months to register after first publication if you expect to get the low-hanging fruit of the damages available. If you fail to register within that time, then "easy damages" —specifically statutory damages and attorneys’ fees — can’t be awarded. That’s actually more interesting if you were to become a defendant in a lawsuit by a free-lanced contributor. If the plaintiff has not registered on time, this rule means it is hardly worthwhile for the freelancer to go to court.

How Long Does Copyright Protection Last?
For works created on or after Jan. l, 1978 and if the work is owned by the publisher, the copyright lasts for 95 years from the date of the first publication or 120 years from creation, whichever expires first. The 95 year term is the one you’re concerned with. It means that you need to keep a "perpetual" file of permissions granted to others to use material from your newspaper.

If you are concerned with a work published before Jan. 1, the copyright duration rules are much more difficult to parse out. Those works are still governed in part by the old publisher-written Copyright Law of 1909, which made it much more difficult for authors to protect their work. The bottom line that’s important to you is that anything published before 1923 is in the public domain.

For details, read Cornell University’s really good chart on copyright duration at

Who Owns the Copyrights for Work in My Newspaper?
In order for the publisher to own the copyrights, the material must be created by an on-the-job employee or transferred to the publisher by a signed contract. A work made for hire is anything created by a non-employee who has signed an agreement saying that he/she assigns all or part of the copyrights to the publisher. If the work is created by a non-employee author, not only does the publisher not own the copyright, the copyright lasts for the author’s life plus 70 years.

Free-lancers — any type of independent contractor — may continue to own the copyrights in the work even after you’ve published it. You can publish someone else’s work with nothing but permission and it doesn’t even have to be in writing, though it is foolish to go without at least an e-mail. However, transferring one of the copyrights to the publisher requires the signature of the freelancer. This is why you see the familiar contract phrase transferring "first North American newspaper rights." That means that the publisher didn’t purchase the rights for magazine publication, for example, nor can the publisher publish the work again. Most rights transfers written by publishers now require the transfer of all current copyrights plus future rights. However, if the freelancer (e.g., syndicated columnist) has negotiating power, he or she can limit what they’ll sell the publisher.

Is There Special Protection for Newspapers?
The pervasive notion bandied around by desperate graphics art directors under deadline is that a small change in the art they want to copy of sufficient. That is not true. Copyright ownership includes the right to create a derivative works, which is what copies with small changes really are. It is true that the "fair use" defense explicitly applies to news uses, but it does not always apply nor is it easy to predict in advance. "Fair use" requires four criteria to be applied:
(1) What is the purpose/character of the use, news? criticism? teaching?
(2) What is copied, a telephone book or a symphony?
(3) Extent of the copying, how much is used and how significant is that portion?
(4) And, what is the impact on market value of the copyrighted work?
The fact that something is published on the Web does not put it in "the public domain." The only works that are in the public domain for sure are those published before 1923.

What is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and What Does it Do for Me?
The law will help protect you from losing copyright infringement lawsuits when someone else has posted infringing material on your web site. All you have to do is to let the Copyright Office know the name and address of a person within your organization or retained by your organization who will accept notice of copyright infringements.

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