Copyrights & Wrongs
What is a copyright?
Copyright is the exclusive right to reproduce, adapt, use, distribute and display an original work of authorship, such as a photograph. This right is protected by treaties and the laws of the United States.
For more information, see:
United States Copyright Office – Copyright Basics (PDF)
A derivative work is a new work that includes aspects of a preexisting, copyrighted work, such as an artistic reproduction of a photograph. A derivative work doesn’t change or negate the copyright owner’s rights in the preexisting work. While a copyright owner can allow someone else to create a derivative work through a license, it constitutes copyright infringement if the preexisting work is used without permission.
DMCA Takedown Notice
A DMCA Takedown Notice, issued pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), directly addresses the removal of content that’s in violation of copyright from a website or other digital media. PicRights will issue a DMCA takedown notice to the Internet Service Provider (“ISP”) of a website that ignores or refuses to comply with a demand from PicRights to license and/or remove infringing content.
“Fair Use” is a defense against copyright infringement that allows for the limited use of copyrighted works for certain defined purposes, such as parody or commentary and criticism. Fair use is a complicated and frequently misunderstood concept and we recommend that you speak with a copyright lawyer if you have questions about fair use.
Non-profit organizations and charities
A non-profit organization or charity has to follow the same copyright laws as everyone else. There’s no exemption for non-profits under the Copyright Act.
Just because an image is displayed on the internet doesn’t mean that it’s in the “public domain”. The term “public domain” is a narrowly defined exception to the Copyright Act. It deals specifically with works in which copyright has expired or where the copyright owner has made a clear declaration that the work is not subject to copyright or the copyright owner has been dead for a specified period of time under the Copyright Act.
Copyright Notice and Watermarks
Publication of a copyright notice and/or a watermark with an image is not a requirement under the Copyright Act. An image is protected by copyright from the moment it is created – whether published or not, whether registered or not, and whether or not a copyright notice or watermark accompanies a published image. Anyone searching for images for any media should always assume that the images are copyrighted and may not be used in any context until they have confirmed otherwise. It is the end user’s obligation and responsibility to ensure that they are not infringing on the intellectual property rights of any party prior to publishing any image in any medium.
Registration: Does Copyright need to be registered to be lawful?
No. Copyright in original works of authorship is automatic, and registration – while it does carry significant benefits to the copyright owner – is not required for a work to be protected by copyright. Protection attaches immediately when the work is completed which, in the case of a photograph, happens the moment the shutter is clicked. In order for a copyright owner to sue an infringer in the USA, the copyright must be registered but that can be done online by the copyright owner prior to issuing a lawsuit.