You may be a business owner, artist, musician, author, or
crafter. You probably use print ads, flyers,
brochures, a website, and even YouTube videos.
Your products may include images, text, or music.
If you publish ANYTHING – from a print ad to a song to a
full-length novel – you need to know about copyright.
So what is “copyright”? It’s pretty simple (in a way): it’s the RIGHT to COPY any “intellectual
property” or “original works of authorship”. This includes literary, dramatic, musical,
and artistic creations (and more).
“Only the owner of copyright, very often the
creator of the work, is allowed to produce or reproduce the work in question or to permit anyone else to do so”
(Canadian Intellectual Property Office, “A Guide To Copyright”).
A BASIC GUIDE TO COPYRIGHT
If you publish (or sell) anything containing
copyrighted materials, you either must hold the copyright yourself, or have
permission from the copyright holder.
Copyrighted materials include photos,
graphics, artwork, music (including lyrics), prose, poetry, and video.
- If you took the photo yourself, created the
artwork yourself, wrote the music yourself, or wrote the prose/poetry/lyrics
yourself, then you are the copyright holder and there is no problem! (WARNING:
this only applies if the source
from which you created the work is not copyrighted. For instance, if you took the music from a
current radio hit and wrote your own lyrics to it, you are violating the
copyright of the person who created the music).
- Old family photos (of your own family,
that is!) may be OK (this is one of those “grey” areas, and also tips
into the area of protection of privacy when it’s the photo of a living person). If the photo has never been published by
anyone else and was taken before 1922, you are probably in the clear – but best
to check with your country’s copyright authority.
- You can use any public domain work freely.
Published materials older than a certain year (1924 in the US) is in the
public domain (unless someone bought up the copyright – nothing is ever easy,
is it?). Also, the creator of a work has
the right to declare that work to be in the public domain (in which case it
should say so somewhere).
- Your best source of you-can-use-it copyrighted
materials is stock (also called royalty-free) images. These are works where the copyright holder issues
a license to use the work – in effect, you are “renting” some of the
rights that belong to the copyright holder.
Some stock materials are free, other times the copyright holder requires a
licensing fee. Free or paid, the creator
will most likely limit the uses for which the work is available. For instance, some stock photos are only
available for non-commercial (that is, personal or non-profit) use. Always check the rights before using stock
- Another good source is materials that have a Creative
Commons license. These items are
made available for free use under certain conditions, stated in the
license. For instance, a Creative
Commons BY license allows you to use the work freely as long as you
“attribute” it (that is, say somewhere who actually created it). (All of the free images available on the
Dustwood Media website are available under a Creative Commons BY license).
A SPECIAL NOTE ON COMMERCIAL MUSIC:
Remember that you cannot freely use commercial music (such
as you would hear on the radio), even if
you personally sing and play the instruments. You MUST pay to license
commercial music, which is usually VERY expensive!
favourite Christmas carols and old church hymns are in the public domain. You can look up public domain hymns on the
Internet, or check the copyright information in any church hymnal (usually
printed at the bottom of the page or right under the hymn title).
For more detailed information and useful links, see the Dustwood
Media “Copyright And Creative Commons Licenses” page.