Protecting your Passion: Copyrights

June 17, 2009 at 6:00 am 5 comments

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License - posted to show illegal photo use

In yesterday’s post, we learned that copyrights are intellectual property rights that protect literary, artistic, and musical works.  According to the United States Copyright Office (USCO) Section 106 of the 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:

  • To reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords (audio recordings including cassette tapes, CDs, and vinyl disks as well as other formats.)
  • To prepare derivative works based upon the work
  • To distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending
  • To perform the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • To display the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work
  • In the case of sound recordings,* to perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.

So, what can be copyrighted? Typically, anything that is created by you, the artist.  This will most apply to the photographers, stationery designers, artists, and songwriters within the wedding industry.  This can also apply to your wedding business if you have written a book, magazine, blog articles, website articles, or any other piece of written literature.  The USCO goes on to say that copyrightable works include the following categories:

  • literary works
  • musical works, including any accompanying words
  • dramatic works, including any accompanying music
  • pantomimes and choreographic works
  • pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  • motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • sound recordings
  • architectural works

And, how do you copyright your creation? Once your creation is made and distributed, it is by nature of the distribution protected as your property.  Prior to 1989, “a copyright notice” (that cool little © doohicky) was required to notify people of your ownership.  However, after 1989 this was no longer required.  In essence, the minute I write this blog post I am the owner of it.  You cannot copy it.  If you do, I can seek legal assistance and prosecute you for copying and unlawfully distributing something that I own. This holds true for your creation as well.  The minute you take a photo and post it to your blog – it is yours for no one to use without your permission.

BUT (there’s always a BUT)… While you do not NEED to use “a copyright notice” (that cool little © doohicky), it is still widely used (and I recommend you use it) because it informs the public that you do own it and the date that it was first published.  It’s a nice gentle reminder that, “Hey, I own this article and I first published it in 2009… so don’t use it without my permission.”

The USCO, recommends that your notice for visually perceptible copies should contain all the following three elements:

  1. The symbol © (the letter C in a circle), or the word“Copyright,” or the abbreviation “Copr.”  (If you have a phonorecord, or sound recording, you would use a “P” instead of a “C”.)
  2. The year of first publication of the work. (The yeardate may be omitted where a pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work.)
  3. The name of the owner of copyright in the work, or an abbreviation by which the name can be recognized, or a generally known alternative designation of the owner.

Example: © 2008 John Doe

You can do this yourself… no need to register your works with any governmental offices. That being said, there are still some protections you can have by copyrighting your work with the USCO, including greater infringement and legal protection.  If you have a work that is very valuable, you will want to protect it with the USCO (Or, register it through another organization.  For example, if you wrote a script or screenplay, you would register it with the Writers Guild of America.)  You can register through the USCO at this link.

Photographers!  This applies to you! I see amazing works of art by photographers being ripped off everyday.  If you post something anywhere, make sure you watermark it.  Your watermark is your copyright.  Make sure you are being recognized for the work you do.  Liene Stevens, owner of Splendid Communications recently wrote a piece on inspiration boards.  She made a great point on how these gorgeous inspiration boards are being created without permission of photo use.  I recommend you read the post here and think of how you can better protect your art.

Tomorrow, we’ll chat about trademarking… this is where we protect the ever-so-brilliant name you have for your business.


Entry filed under: Legal, Plan It, Strategy.

Protecting your Passion: Patents Protecting your Passion: Trademarks

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mikiye Creations  |  June 17, 2009 at 9:51 am

    What you say is totally correct. Unfortunately, in the real world people don’t always abide by those rules.
    Over a year I have had nothing but GREIF with a few other companies “knocking off” my designs on a public site. The site’s company basically told me I could take a flying leap since the other company had actual “copyright numbers” for the designs and therefore even though my pieces had been up and online first it didn’t “legally” matter. That the ONLY way I could after that point sell the items in question were to “copyright them through the library of congress” and have the numbers to prove it. So, I think if you are going to have shady people that will “steal” your products you should officially copyright them and don’t get burned like me.

    • 2. Michelle Loretta  |  June 17, 2009 at 10:19 am

      WOW! Thank you so much for sharing this story with us. What a horrible thing to happen to you and your business. I’m a believer in karma and I’m certain those people will pay their penance in time to come. All you can do is continue to put out quality and original product. Thanks again for your comment… a great lesson for all of us.

  • 3. Charles Szczepanek  |  June 17, 2009 at 11:29 am

    Copyright is SO important to know and understand – this is a great, easy to read post that can help quite a few people in this area. Don’t forget about the “Poor Man’s Copyright” — if you mail yourself whatever material you would like copyrighted and keep it sealed in the stamped and postmarked envelope, that can serve just as well as the Library of Congress papers. You have a verified date from a government agency (USPS) with your creation inside. It works!

    • 4. Michelle Loretta  |  June 17, 2009 at 12:35 pm

      Thank you Charles! I LOVE the “Poor Man’s Copyright”… that is a really great and useful (cheap!) tip.

  • […] your name and that entrepreneurship is something you want beyond the first two years.  I love a comment posted to yesterday’s post from Charles of Winding Road Studios.  He recommends the […]


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