When you are planning on using or creating content for the web, it is important that you have a basic understanding of copyright law. That doesn’t mean you have to take a legal course on the subject. You just have to be aware of the fundamentals that make it less likely that you get into trouble.
Here are a few things you need to know: the different between a copyright and Creative Commons and how to assert or recognize each.
Symbol # 1
Any time the © symbol is present, the content is owned and cannot be used for commercial or sharing purposes without proper permission and credit. If you fail to meet this criteria, the content counts as being plagiarized. This could lead to lawsuits, fines and other consequences, depending on the context in which it was used.
Symbol # 2
While a © stands for a copyright, there is also a ™ for trademark and ® for a registered trademark. They are made with ( c ), ( tm ) and ( r ) in Windows, minus the spaces.
Symbol # 3
Creative Commons has its own symbols. These include attribution, derivatives, share-alike and noncommercial or commercial use. Each one signifies that an image can be used if the specified requirements, set by the creator, are met. Content that is in the public domain does not require any special rules to be listed or followed for use. For attribution, you must provide a credit with the content and link or source. Derivative and share-alike both refer to the presentation of similar or edited content based on the original. Commercial or noncommercial will tell you whether you can use it for a profitable venture. The creator may also have some special requirements to meet, such as telling them you have used the image, and where.
Symbol # 4
Any creative work is automatically copyrighted in the United States under the amended Copyright Act of 1988, as long as the work is created after March 1, 1989. If the work was created prior to that date, the creator or owner must have applied for copyright protection under the new law. This is why so much content prior to that date is within the public domain, as the copyright originally in place expired or it was never placed according to the amended law.
Bonus: One Tip
It is your responsibility as a creative owner of anything you create to place a copyright symbol upon the work when sharing it. This includes online, where it is easy to steal another’s work. Some websites made for sharing will automatically list it as copyrighted to you to protect themselves from liability. But you should always check, in case your work is plagiarized and you have to show the court that the user was aware of your ownership.
Copyright can be a complicated issue. But as long as you take steps to remember the basics you will be able to protect yourself from the most obvious risks, especially online, where it has become so easy to both have your work stolen and catch instances where it has occurred.