Good morning to you! This morning I’m going to discuss the dreaded copyright law. I’ll try to break it down into simple terms so I can understand it!
What is copyright?
Copyright is an automatic right that applies to the following types of work:
- Literary song lyrics, manuscripts, manuals, computer programs, commercial documents, leaflets, newsletters & articles etc.
- Dramatic plays, dance, etc.
- Musical recordings and score.
- Artistic photography, painting, sculptures, architecture, technical drawings/diagrams, maps, logos.
- Typographical arrangement of published editions magazines, periodicals, etc.
- Sound recording may be recordings of other copyright works, e.g. musical and literary.
- Film video footage, films, broadcasts and cable programmes.
But we will deal with the photography side of it today.
How do I copyright my work?
It is automatically copyrighted if you create it. Unless it is directly copied from someone else’s work.
Copyright automatically exists under law whenever an individual creates any type of work listed above provided it is original (not directly copied or adapted from an existing work), and exhibit some degree of labour, skill or judgement in its creation.
Normally the individual or collective who authored the work will exclusively own the work and is referred to as the ‘first owner of copyright’. However, if a work is produced as part of employment then the first owner will normally be the company that is the employer of the individual who created the work. In the UK Copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years.
So now we have that out of the way, let’s hit the myths!
1. Copyright can protect my ideas
Copyright applies to a recorded work, it cannot apply to something as intangible as an idea. Within certain fields, (such as inventions) it may be possible to apply for a patent.
2. I can copyright a name or title
Copyright laws are actually very restrictive, and do not apply to items such as names and titles that may be duplicated coincidentally, or that may be legitimately used in unrelated instances.
3. I can simply post a copy to myself as proof of copyright
This method (sometimes called ‘poor man’s copyright’), may help in some cases, but it is extremely poor evidence as it is very easy to fake – for example by replacing the actual materials inside at a later date.
4. Everything on the Internet is ‘public domain’ and free to use
This highlights a common misunderstanding about what is meant by ‘public domain’ when referring to copyright work.
A work will fall into the public domain once copyright expires, this will typically be many years after the author’s death.
While work published on the Internet may be publicly accessible, it is certainly not in the public domain.
5. Anything without a copyright notice is not protected
Copyright will apply whether there is a copyright notice or not.
6. If I change someone else’s work I can claim it as my own
The act of copying or adapting someone else’s work is a restricted act. Any adaptation will be legally regarded as a derived work; so if you simply adapt the work of others, it will still be their work, and they have every right to object you if publish such a work when they have not given you permission to do so. They are also entitled to reclaim any money you make from selling their work.
7. I can legally copy 10% without it being infringement
This is not the case. Unless it is explicitly allowed under fair use or fair dealing rules, any unauthorised use of copyright work can potentially lead to legal action.
8. It’s OK to use copy or publish other peoples work if I don’t make any money out of it
No, except in specific circumstances permitted under fair dealing/fair use rules, any copying or publication without the consent of the copyright owner is an infringement, and you could face legal action.
If the use has a financial impact on the copyright owner, (i.e. lost sales), then you could also face a claim for damages to reclaim lost revenue and royalties.
9. It’s hard to prove copyright infringement
This is not the case, copyright law is principally civil not criminal law. Civil law requires a lower burden of proof, actually making it easier to prove infringement.
In a criminal case, the defendant is innocent until proven guilty beyond any reasonable doubt. However, in a civil case, the plaintiff must simply convince the court or tribunal that their claim is valid, and that on balance of probability it is likely that the defendant is guilty.
10. Confusion over copyright in music
A sound recording will have a separate copyright to the underlying musical composition. This means that a new recording of an old piece of music will still be protected under copyright, even if copyright has expired in the original music.
So what now?
So there you have it. Copyright law broken down for you. But if you need images, you do have a number of options.
Royalty free stock sites
These are images that are free to use wherever or however you like. And there are some pretty good sites out there for this. The images for this post came from Unsplash.
Paid Stock Sites
Another option is to go slightly more exclusive with a paid stock site like Adobe Stock.
Stock sites could be a good option. But these images are not YOURS. They don’t carry your branding and other sites could have the same images. An article by Forbes that I read(I cannot remember the link now unfortunately), said that people no longer engage in the stock images of people in a boardroom. You know the ones.
This leads us to the final, and in my opinion, best option.
Hire a professional photographer
This is always the best (albeit more expensive) option. By hiring a professional photographer, you are guaranteed images that are personal to you, highlight your business and will drive way more engagement on Social Media than any other types of images
So that’s my wrap up on Copyright law. Was it helpful? Do you have any copyright stories you’d like to share? Comment in the space below.
Top 10 Copyright Myths page from the UK Copyright Service.