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Copyright Myths: Getting It Wrong About Protecting Your Rights

  • Can you mail something to yourself to copyright it?
  • Do you own the copyright to your ideas?
  • Is it okay to use just a little piece of someone’s photo in your illustration?

Copyright is a vital engine for economic empowerment for artists. But copyrights are also widely misunderstood by those who want to use copyrighted works and even by the very creators who rely on copyrights to control and monetize their works.

To counter this misinformation, we’ve compiled some of the most common copyright myths for you – myths about creating works and myths about using copyrighted works. For each myth, we’ve provided a detailed explanation that will hopefully give you some context to better understand your rights as a creator or user of copyrighted works. We’ve even provided a list of resources related to each myth.

Creating Copyrighted Works

Myth 1: Ideas are copyrighted to the person who thinks of them.
Myth 2: If I mail my illustration to myself, I’ve copyrighted it.
Myth 3: My work isn’t copyrighted until I register it with the Copyright Office.
Myth 4: I’m not a professional artist or I’m a new artist, so my work has little copyright value.
Myth 5: Parody and satire are the same thing, so if I use a copyrighted work in a satire, it’s fair use.
Myth 6: I’m not infringing copyrights if I just use a small amount of a work, or if I copy a photograph or artwork in a different medium.

Using Copyrighted Works

Myth 7: If I don’t see a copyright notice on something, it’s not copyrighted.
Myth 8: Anything that is published online is “public domain,” particularly if it doesn’t have a copyright notice.
Myth 9: Because an artwork has a Creative Commons license tag, I can use it any way I want.
Myth 10: If I don’t make any money off of using a copyrighted work, then it’s okay to use it.
Myth 11: Even if artwork is copyrighted, sharing it helps the artist by giving them exposure.
Myth 12: Copyright only benefits big corporations and media companies; for everyone else, it’s censorship

image of the cover of the Copyright Myths whitepaper

Non Members

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