If you publish anything – be it a flyer, a brochure, print ads, radio ads, a song, or a full-length novel – you need to know about copyright.  

Basically, you must be the copyright holder, or have permission from the copyright holder, for ALL COPYRIGHTED MATERIALS used in anything you publish, including promotional materials and online content.  This includes images (photos, graphics or artwork), music, and text (prose, poetry, or printed song lyrics).

“Copyright is a form of protection provided… to the authors of ‘original works of authorship,’ including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works.  This protection is available to both published and unpublished works.”

(Copyright Office Basics, US Copyright Office)

“In the simplest terms, ‘copyright’ means ‘the right to copy’.  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.”

(A Guide To Copyright, Canadian Intellectual Property Office)

If you want to avoid all problems with copyright, either be sure that you are the creator of everything used in your publication, or be sure you use public domain materials, Creative Commons-licensed materials,  or purchase a license to use copyrighted material from the copyright holder.  (For instance, when you use one of my free stock images from this website, you are granted a license to use the materials under a Creative Commons BY4 license)


YOUR OWN WORK:  If you took the photo yourself, created the artwork yourself (NOT from a copyrighted source), wrote the music yourself, or wrote the prose/poetry/lyrics yourself, then you are the copyright holder and there is no problem!  The copyright notice will read “©date your name”.

YOUR OWN WORK THAT IS A COPY OF SOMEONE ELSE’S WORK:  Don’t do it!  If you, for instance, do a painting from a published photograph (a photo in a magazine, for instance), or write a song using a melody from a song you heard on the radio, you are violating the copyright holder’s rights.  This can be a very big problem!  For instance, you can’t do a drawing of Mickey Mouse without violating Disney’s copyright – and Disney is notorious for prosecuting ALL violations of their copyright.

OLD FAMILY PHOTOS:  Frankly, I’m not sure what the law is in this regard; generally speaking, though, if the photo has never been published, and it was either taken by you or a member of your family OR was taken before 1922, there should be no problem.  If there’s any possibility of a question, be sure to check with your country’s copyright authority.  PRIVACY:  if it’s a photo of an identifiable living person, you must have their permission (preferably written) to publish their picture.

PUBLIC DOMAIN:  you may freely use any work in the public domain without worrying about copyright.  Any work copyrighted in the US before 1924 is in the public domain in the US.  Any work that is declared to be in the public domain by the creator of the work is in the public domain.  After that it gets complicated!

ROYALTY-FREE (“STOCK”) WORKS:  There are sources (both print and online) for stock or royalty-free artwork, photos and music.  These are cases where the copyright holder gives you permission to use the work – in effect, you are “renting” some of the rights that belong to the copyright holder.  Sometimes the copyright holder requires a licensing fee, sometimes they give reproduction permission for free (probably with the requirement that you identify the work as theirs).  
Note:  always check the rights first.  Sometimes, for instance, permission is only given for non-commercial use; in that case, you could use the image in a multimedia CD you were giving away to family members, but not in a brochure you were going to use to advertise your business, or a product you were going to sell.  (By the way, all of my free stock images are available under a Creative Commons BY license, so you CAN use them for commercial purposes!)

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.  This applies to hymns and church songs, too.  (Exception:  hymns and songs that are in the public domain.)

“In the case of a “real song”, like something you would hear on a top-40 radio play-list, there are several different parties involved with the song:

  • The label owns the actual sound recording — the performance of the song as recorded in the label’s studio.
  • The publisher works on behalf of the song’s composer (the person who arranged the music) and songwriter (the person who wrote the lyrics). The composer and songwriter probably own the actual copyrights for the song, and the publisher represents them in all business dealings

If you want to use a song for any reason, you have to somehow obtain rights at least from the publisher, and possibly from the label as well (if you are planning to use a specific performance).”

(From “How Music Licensing Works” by Marshall Brain).

Note:  In some cases (many favourite Christmas carols and standard church hymns, for instance) the melody itself may be in the public domain even though a particular arrangement (and often the words) are under copyright.  But, as always, check first before using it!


If you produce copyrighted material that you’d like to make available to others, but do not want to put into the public domain (which means giving up all your rights), you might be interested in a Creative Commons license.

Here’s what Creative Commons says about themselves:  “Creative Commons defines the spectrum of possibilities between full copyright – all rights reserved – and the public domain – no rights reserved.  Our licenses help you keep your copyright while inviting certain uses of your work – a ‘some rights reserved’ copyright.”

Creative Commons licenses let you select conditions to apply to your work:

  • Attribution (“BY4”). You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your copyrighted work – and derivative works based upon it – but only if they give credit the way you request.  (My free stock images are available under a Creative Commons BY license).
  • Noncommercial (“NC”). You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your work – and derivative works based upon it – but for noncommercial purposes only.
  • No Derivative Works (“ND”). You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform only verbatim copies of your work, not derivative works based upon it.
  • Share Alike. You allow others to distribute derivative works only under a license identical to the license that governs your work.

The most accommodating license is BY4:  Attribution only – “lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation”.  The most restrictive is BY-NC-ND: Attribution, Non-Commercial, No Derivatives – “This license is the most restrictive of our six main licenses, allowing redistribution.  This license is often called the ‘free advertising’ license because it allows others to download your works and share them with others as long as they mention you and link back to you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.”

Creative Commons is a non-profit organization, and their services and software are free.


Copyright And Dustwood Media

How does Dustwood Media deal with copyright?  I either produce my own materials, use public domain or royalty-free materials, or obtain permission from the copyright holder.

IMAGES:  I use my own photographs and artwork, or photos and artwork licensed from the photographer/artist.  All stock images available for download on this website are available under a Creative Commons BY4 License.  All art and photo prints available through my ArtPal Gallery are copyright 2023 Jeri-Lynn Woods, all rights reserved.

TEXT:  Text in my website is either original with me or quoted (with attribution) from others (this falls under the definition of “fair use”).  

YOUTUBE VIDEOS:  my YouTube videos use my own photographs and music (©2023 Jeri-Lynn Woods, all rights reserved; music was created and recorded by my late husband, R.J. “Dusty” Woods).  In my Christian videos I use Bible quotes from the King James, Douay-Rheims, or World English Bibles, which are public domain. 
Videos are available for download on my YouTube channel under a standard YouTube license.  

WEBSITE:  Designed, created, copyrighted, and maintained by me.  Website, contents and images are ©2023 Jeri-Lynn Woods.