Many self-publishers know that books in print should contain a copyright notice. Unfortunately, that may be the extent of their knowledge about the importance of informing the public of their position regarding copyright.
Yes, our work is copyrighted under U.S. law from the moment it is created. However, to sustain control of our work and manage its use in a way that maintains its value, it’s important to understand the relationship between our audience, our online efforts to promote the work, and current common practices and misconceptions regarding our intellectual property.
Many of us are engaged in creating content for websites and blogs in order to showcase our abilities and expertise. This blog is an obvious example of that. It is important to claim these works as our own just as we know we should claim a print work. Plagiarism on the Internet is rampant. Many would-be infringers are simply ignorant of copyright law. But many who have a general knowledge of copyright law as it operates in other realms of publishing feel the Internet is a new frontier where anything goes, including copying without permission and without attribution. But some would ask if they had a clue about how to ask. Because technology has made copying so easy, it is tempting to use “other people’s stuff” without asking permission when no clear instructions for doing so are offered .
We should all remember to make it very clear to all in an obvious place on our blog and/or website how we stand on the issue. If we want to fully protect our work and want to be asked for permission to use it, we should always include a copyright statement like the one below:
Copyright © 2011 Integrated Writer Services, LLC. All Rights Reserved. For permission to excerpt content from this blog, contact Joyce Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some authors mistakenly think they need to register their work with the US Copyright Office in order to place a copyright statement like the one above on their work. This is untrue. The misunderstanding arises from confusion of copyright law with trademark law which states that in order to use the registered trademark symbol ®, federal registration must be complete.
Now we may wish for our work to be copied in order to further our message, accomplish our mission, or get ourselves and our talents in the public eye. And we may not care that it is copied extensively as long as it is done so with appropriate attribution.
If so, we may wish to use a Creative Commons license that clearly defines this use. Go to creativecommons.org for more information on these licenses.
As a visual artist or a photographer, we may wish to use the Internet to showcase our work and sell it. We may wish to charge a fee for the use of our work, and we may not intend for anyone to freely copy it. We may wish to use a statement like the one below:
All images are copyrighted © by John the Artist/Photographer. The use of any image from this site is prohibited unless prior written permission from the artist/photographer is obtained. Use fees are attached to all of the images on this site.
We should always remember to make it clear to our online audience what our intentions are regarding our work. Do we want others to enjoy it by visiting our site. We may not intend to grant permissions for its use beyond that. Or is the work free for the taking? Is it work over which we want total control at all times? Do we want to be asked before it is used?
If we want to be asked, but do not inform our audience we wish for them to ask and where to obtain permission, we are placing barriers to correct usage and we are inviting abuse. This is true for print works as well as online works of course, but because of the ease with which copying can be accomplished online, the risks of lack of notice there are much greater than with print works .
Much time and effort often goes into creating our online presence. So it makes sense to be sure we have a statement on our website and/or our blog that gives clear instructions to our reader regarding use of our work.
Copyright © 2011 Integrated Writer Services, LLC. All Rights Reserved. For permission to excerpt content from this blog, contact Joyce Miller via our Contact Us form.
Want More About Copyright Law?
Order your copy of Copyright Clearance for Creatives for a basic overview of copyright law and essential guidelines on when, how, and where to get permission to use copyright content in your works.