Copyright is a legal matter, which is backed up by the majority of governments throughout the world. It gives the exclusive rights to the original creator of any work. A copyright is your right to your copy. You have the right to make copies, to sell your work, to share it, etc. No one else has this right until you sign it over, or give some form of consent. Copyright laws gives you the right to be properly compensated for your work should it be used, you can benefit from it financially or be credited to the work as you see fit.
Copyright gives the ability for companies and for individuals to prevent the complete copying of books, music, photographs or any sort of created materials from being recreated and resold by someone else. It is illegal to reprint or redistribute copyrighted material, and in a case where a person has done this, that person can be sued in a civil court proceeding. If the case is extreme, if there is intent to damage the plaintiff’s income or value of the work, it can be tried in a criminal court.
This isn’t always completely binding. The courts usually allow ‘fair use’ of some copyrighted materials. It prevents people being sued over every little incident. This means that if you choose to use pieces of material in order to review it, or for educational purposes, or to make a parody or under other certain conditions, you are excused from being sued for copyright violations.
Today, there are additional laws that cover the Internet, and the use of copyrighted work on websites and shared through networking sites. The Internet makes it easy to copy and paste a written work, and sometimes assumptions are made about what is deemed to be ‘fair use’ of copyrighted material. Since every case is unique, and depending on the severity of the violation, there are often different ways to handle each incident. This might include a simple enforcement to remove the copied material from a website, to an actual lawsuit, which could cost the defendant as much as $100,000 per violation.