There is no modern life without copyright. Every computer program, painting, image, song, movie, and work of art created today will be copyright protected. Copyright is important because it gives rights to the authors of original works and promotes creativity.

What can copyright protect?

Throughout most industrialized countries in the world, copyright protects intellectual property such as:

  • Websites and website content
  • Architectural works – the design of a building, drawings, architectural plans
  • Software – apps
  • Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  • Written works – articles, blog posts, books, and screenplays
  • Sound recordings (musical or spoken) – including any accompanying words
  • Dramatic works – choreography, plays
  • Motion pictures – and other audiovisual works
  • Broadcast – the electronic transmission of sounds, images or additional information
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How to avoid copyright infringement?

  • Always ask for permission, always. Get it in writing, and keep a copy of it.
  • Always credit the creator.
  • Understand the terms of image sharing platforms before you download and use and image.

How to tell if an image is copyrighted?

There are several ways to find out if an image is copyrighted. For starters, you can search on the United States Copyright Office website. You should also look for watermarks to see if an image is copyrighted. Another way to tell if an image is copyrighted is to check for the copyright notice. If you want to use an image posted by someone, check with the person.

If I alter an image, is it still copyrighted?

Yes, it is.

How much do you need to alter a copyrighted image to avoid copyright?

It’s complicated. Let me explain. Copyright protection extends beyond “exact” reproductions. Courts look at the similarities between the works in context. If you copy any part of an image, you could have copyright issues. If you steal on 30 percent of something, you took 30 percent of something that isn’t yours.

What you need to do is study the image. Learn how they created the effect you want to accomplish. You can then create your own unique image rather than copying someone’s work.

Is it enough to change 10 percent of a copyrighted image?

Generally speaking, the concept of copyright doesn’t permit you to use any part of an image without permission.

Is it enough to change 30 percent of a copyrighted image?

The only way to avoid copyright infringement is to create original work or by getting permission to use it. Ultimately the only way to know that you have changed enough of the copyrighted image is to get sued. Once in court, the judge will decide if there was enough change between the original work and yours. Suppose the judge rules that there is copyright infringement. Then it doesn’t matter what percent was changed.

When is an image manipulated enough to become an original creation?

Images can be manipulated, which can create problems. The simple answer is that you have to manipulate an image to the degree that it becomes an original work.

Can you modify a copyrighted image?

Yes, you can modify a copyrighted image, but that doesn’t mean that you have created an original. No matter what you do to the image. If you are changing it, without permission from the original creator, you are committing copyright infringement.

How do I change a picture to avoid copyright?

Anytime you change a picture without the permission of the original creator, you are on shaky ground. The best approach is to take your own photos.

What role does a copyright notice play?

Prior to March 1, 1989, to receive protection under the copyright laws, a published work had to include a valid copyright notice. Today, this requirement is no longer in force. Just because a copyright notice is no longer required, it is still recommended. Leveraging a valid copyright notice, the infringer cannot claim that he was unaware that the work was copyrighted. In addition, the presence of a copyright notice could discourage infringement.

What is a valid copyright notice?

A valid copyright notice should include:

  • The name of the owner or the name of the author
  • The date of publication
  • The word “copyright”
  • A “c” in a circle (©)

How do I register copyright in the United States?

You can register the copyright with the U.S. Copyright office.

What is the process to register a copyright?

Copyright registration requires completing a form and depositing one or two samples of the work. In addition, you have to pay a nonrefundable registration fee.

Why should I register my work with the U.S. Copyright Office?

Even though copyright registration is not required, it is a smart idea. Before you are legally permitted to file a lawsuit, you must first register with the U.S. Copyright Office. Timely copyright registration – which is within three months of the date of publication – may benefit you in the long run. It is easier to sue and recover money from an infringer if the work is copyrighted.

How are copyrights enforced?

Imagine that you are an artist with a popular website. You publish your painting and drawings on your website and also sell your artwork on T-shirts. One morning, a friend sends you a link to a website showing your artwork. You never gave permission to anyone to use your artwork. Someone must have downloaded your images from your website and published it on theirs. Your heart drops into your stomach.  Shock and anger burn through your body. You are feeling helpless.

Can I sue for copyright infringement?

The owner of the original work is entitled to file a lawsuit in federal court. The court can issue an order to prevent further copyright violations. A court can also issue a temporary restraining order before a trial to halt copyright infringement. If appropriate, the court can award money damages, and in some cases, award attorney fees.

Are there alternatives to filing a copyright infringement lawsuit?

Lawsuits are always expensive and never simple. Unfortunately, copyright infringement lawsuits are far from being a perfect solution. You have to find and hire an attorney you trust. Expect to pay your attorney hundreds of dollars per hour. It is going to be very expensive.

Try to keep a cool head when you are dealing with copyright infringement. Consider the costs and the emotional toll of going through with a lawsuit. There might be alternatives to filing a lawsuit. Contact the infringer to see if you can get him to stop infringing. If you are not getting anywhere, you could write a demand letter or hire an attorney to write it for you. The lawyer’s letter will be taken more seriously, but it will be expensive. Filing a copyright infringement lawsuit should never be your first line of defense.

What are defenses to a claim of copyright infringement?

Some of the common copyright legal defenses are:

  • The original owner has authorized use.
  • The infringing work was not copied. It was independently created.
  • If the use is qualified as “fair use,” it would not be copyright infringement.
  • Too much time has passed between the infringing act and the filing of the lawsuit.
  • An innocent infringer may still be liable for the infringement, but the court may reduce the amount of damages.

Do countries outside the U.S. offer the same copyright protection?

Due to international copyright treaties, most industrialized countries offer protection. Even though there is no such thing as “international copyright,” most countries offer protection to foreign works. For the most part, copyright protection depends on the national laws of the country.

Is U.S. copyright valid in other countries?

The level of protection of U.S. copyright depends on the country. There is greater protection if the United States has copyright relations with a country. Unfortunately, the United States doesn’t have working copyright treaties with every country.

When can I use a work without the author’s permission?

To use a work without permission from the owner, it has to be in the public domain. Most works enter the public domain because their copyrights have expired.

How can you determine if a work is in the public domain?

  • Works published in the U.S. prior to 1924 are in the public domain.
  • All works after 1923, but before 1978 are under copyright protection for 95 years from the date of publication.
  • Works published after 1977, the copyright is in effect for the life of the author plus 70-years.
  • For works published between 1924 and 1963, check with the United States Copyright Office. If the author did not renew the copyright, the work has become part of the public domain, and you are free to use it.

How to get around copyright images?

You can get around using copyright images by obtaining royalty-free images. Unfortunately, some websites fail to verify copyright. Even Wikimedia Commons has a disclaimer stating, “Wikimedia Commons can not grant any rights to use any otherwise protected materials. Your use of any such or similar incorporeal property is at your own risk.” Be sure to only download royalty-free images from reputable websites.

A reverse image search to see where else an image appears online can provide copyright information. You can drag and drop images into Google Image Search to do a reverse search. TinEye is another tool to search by image or to perform a reverse image search.

Of course, the best way to get around copyright images is to take your own photos. You own the copyright to every photo you take. It’s that simple.

What images can I use without copyright?

You can use public domain images without copyright. Another great option to use images without copyright is to use creative commons images.

Are you allowed to use an image if it doesn’t have the copyright symbol?

An image without the copyright symbol is still protected by copyright laws. Copyright law doesn’t require the presence of a copyright notice. It helps to have a copyright symbol to find copyright information.

What is not protected by copyright?

Slogans, names, titles, and short phrases are not protected by copyright law.

Copyright law doesn’t protect the following works:

  • Domain names
  • Ideas – Although expressions of ideas can be copyright protected.
  • Direct copies of works
  • Facts
  • Works by the U.S. Federal Government
  • Works without authorship/facts
  • Phone directories
  • Fashion – Fashion pieces are useful articles. Only patterns can be copyrightable but not the pieces. The cut, style, and color are not copyrightable.

Can you draw a copyrighted image?

Suppose you draw or paint an illustration of an image you may or may not be violating copyright laws. If you base your drawing on a frequently painted or photographed location, generic theme, or an image that has been taken by many photographers, it is unlikely that you would be violating copyright law.

If you get permission from the owner of the image to make a drawing, there would be no infringement.

What is transformative use under U.S. copyright law?

Transformative uses add something new and do not substitute for the original use of the work. In essence, it takes the original work and transforms it to such a high degree that the use no longer qualifies as infringing.

What is the difference between fair use and copyright infringement?

Copyright infringement is about using someone’s work without the permission of the creator. “Fair Use” provides a set of rules and guidelines to enable people to use copyrighted works for entertainment or academic purposes.

Do I need to copyright my website?

Websites and their content, as long as they are original works, are inherently copyrighted. It is not a requirement, but you are free to complete copyright registration for your website.

How to copyright a website?

Copyright protects original works such as websites, computer programs, sound recordings, images, etc.

To be copyrightable, website content must meet the following criteria:

  • Copyright law protects original works such as websites and their content fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Without a “tangible medium” copyright can’t exist. But how is a website and its content fixed in tangible when a website isn’t something you physically touch? In terms of website copyright protection, the issue of “tangible” has to do with permanence. A website is hosted on a web server, which makes it permanent. The content of the website can be communicated to a website viewer at another time. Even though you can’t touch a website, the website and its content are stored (on the webserver) that enables copying, accessing, or transmission by others, it is judged to be fixed into a tangible medium.
  • The website and its content must originate with the copyright owner. The work also must show some minimal amount of creativity. Website domains and titles cannot be copyrighted.

Who owns the copyright to my website?

You own the copyright of the website if you or the people who work for you created it.

How do you acknowledge copyright?

You may be subject to lawsuits, penalties, and fines without correctly attributing copyright information. Acknowledging copyright isn’t the same as getting permission from the copyright holder. Even in the case of “Fair Use” to acknowledge copyright is the professional course of action.

How do I avoid copyright infringement?

It’s a straightforward equation. If you didn’t create it, you have no right to use it. Even if there is no copyright symbol, always ask for permission to use other peoples’ work. It’s critical to read usage rules to avoid copyright infringement lawsuits.

Don’t believe anyone who tells you can use an image without permission. Always assume the work in question is protected by federal copyright. This is especially true for anything you see, read, hear, or download from the internet.

What makes an effective company copyright policy?

Educate your employees on the need to respect copyrighted content. You can reduce the risk of copyright infringement if your employees understand that using copyrighted materials without permission exposes your business to the risk of copyright infringement. You should develop a corporate copyright policy, to provide a clear set of guidelines to employees. It is a great way to demonstrate your organization’s commitment to respecting copyright laws.

The following tips should help you implement an effective corporate copyright policy:

  • Work with a copyright expert to develop your copyright policy.
  • Don’t expect your employees to understand copyright laws without proper information, training, and guidelines. Provide foundational copyright information and guidance for all employees.
  • Set up and enforce policies to ensure that employees share content responsibly.
  • Include details in your compliance procedures regarding whom staff members should contact within your company with copyright concerns. Demonstrate how staff members can evaluate if they need copyright permission and how to get permission from publishers, creators, and authors.
  • Train employees on how to handle internal copyrighted works. Employees should have a clear understanding of the correct way to distribute your company’s own works.
  • Coach your employees on the correct way to handle copyright infringement. Instruct your employees on how to handle copyright infringement of your organization’s own works that they discover on an online property.

After you have created your copyright infringement policy, be certain to officially introduce these policies and procedures to your employees. Include the copyright policy in your new employee orientation and continuing training for current staff members.

Disclaimer: The content in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice.