Copyright Myths


Copyright is often misunderstood. Here are some of the common misconceptions about copyright .

If it’s on the Internet it’s in the public domain.

Not True. Copyright is not ‘waived’ when you publish text or images on the Internet. It is not in the public domain until the owner explicitly puts it into the public domain, or the copyright protection has expired.

If there’s no copyright notice on the image, I don’t need permission to use it.

Not true. Since March 1 1989, the use of a copyright notice is no longer required under U.S. law.

If it is not registered, then it is not copyrighted.

Not true. Copyright exists the moment a work is created and copyright registration is not a requirement of copyright ownership. 

If I give credit, I don’t need permission.

Not true. Attribution is not a defense to copyright infringement. Copyright infringement is the unauthorized use of someone else’s work.

If you don’t defend your copyright you lose it.

Not true. Copyright protection is never lost, unless you’ve explicitly given it away or the copyright has expired.

If It doesn’t hurt anyone, it is free advertising.

Not true. If the owner of the copyright did not grant permission to use the work then a copyright infringement has occurred, which can lead to legal action.

I don’t need permission if I’m not using the entire image and/or altering the artwork in any manner. 

Not true. “Fair Use” is the most abused concept in copyright law. While copying a small amount of copyright protected work may not be an infringement, there are no clear rules regarding what constitutes permitted use of small amounts of copyright protected works. Unless it is explicitly allowed under fair use or fair dealing rules, any unauthorized use of copyright work can potentially lead to legal action.

If I remove the image after notice, I don’t owe any money to the copyright owner.

Not True. Removal of an infringement alone does not resolve past unauthorized use.

If I pay someone to create something for me, I own the copyright.

If the content creator is on staff, and the work is created during their employment as part of their job, usually the employer owns the copyright. If, on the other hand, the content creator is an independent contractor, then they will usually retain copyright unless there is something in writing transferring copyright to you.

I can always get permission later.

Not true. Later may be too late. Copyright owners do not have to grant permission to use their work.