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Text and Photos are Automatically Copyrighted

Updated on February 9, 2013

The person who writes the text is automatically the copyright owner of the text (unless it is written under a "work for hire" contract or agreement). So if one wrote the text, one owns the copyright of the text regardless of whether it is on a public website or not. And regardless of whether one has filed any paper or not. And regardless of whether there is a "c" copyright symbol or not. If one wrote it, one owns the copyright without needing to do anything. It is not necessary to put a copyright symbol on the text or the site (although people who wants to certainly can). Those without the copyright symbol has just as much rights as those with the copyright symbol.

This concept is similar to the fact that the person who pressed the button on the camera will be the person who automatically and by default become the copyright owner of the photograph regardless of whether it was posted on a website or on Flickr or whatever. You press the button, you have the copyright. Nothing else needs to be done. You don't need to sign no papers, and you do not need to proclaim your copyright with the copyright symbol.

Hence, most photos on the web is copyrighted. It is copyrighted by the person who pressed the button on the camera. This means that if a person does a Google image search, finds and photo, and then uses it, then it is copyright infringement.

Except ...

One exception when you might not have copyright is when you have explicitly given your copyright away by signing some paper or by declaring it as "public domain".

Also some author declare their work as "creative common" which allows other to use and re-mix their work (sometime with the condition that credit be attributed to original author). Learn more about creative commons and where to find creative common materials.

Even though one owns the copyright to one's own text, there are limited instance and some circumstances where it is legally permissible for someone to copy a portion of the work under the "fair use" clause of the copyright regulations. This is explained in this humorous video...

Preventing Copying?

However, although one owns the copyright to the text, there is no technical foolproof way to prevent someone from copying the text illegally. If a person can read the text, they can copy it. They can simply read the text and re-type it verbatim if they have to (although most would rather use Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V for copy-and-paste).

Same with photos. If the photo can be seen, it can be copied (just think "print screen"). It would be true that they are breaking the law and are infringing on copyright.

It is true that there are some technical ways like using Javascript to prevent "right-click" on the webpage and putting watermarks on photos and such. But they are not foolproof.


I am not a lawyer. Because the above may be wrong, consult with a legal professional instead. The above is only opinion at the time of writing (December 2011) and is in regards to US copyright regulations. The above text automatically copyrighted by default.


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