By Brianna Diogostine
It can be difficult to know what content you can and cannot use because of copyright laws. We are living in the age of digital creation, which leaves us with a multitude of material available but it is not all completely usable. Whether you are freelancer, work with a startup, or are employed by a well-known company, here are some tools to help navigate the world of fair use.
Copyright has an expiration date.
Yes, you read that right; but don’t get too excited. Any published work in the United States before the year 1925 is considered public domain. This means that anyone can use the published material without facing copyright infringement. With every passing year, another year’s copyright work will become available for the public to use freely. Next year (which is 2021 and hopefully a better one), all published work from 1925 will be public domain.
As each year passes the cycle continues release published works from their copyright. Well, at least until 1977. Copyrighted material published before 1976 has a seventy-year infringement upon it. Starting 1976, the copyright remains with owner until their passing plus an additional seventy years after their passing!
Proceed with caution to make sure a renewal was not made upon material you want to use. Here are some helpful websites for navigating through public domain content:
Images and Photos
Visuals are what entice viewers to your content, and you definitely do not want to get in trouble for using images without the owner’s permission. The person who takes a photo becomes the owner of said photo. Using your own photos is the safest route, but not everyone has the means or skills to do so. There are plenty of websites that offer free trials but free all the time is always better. Pixabay is a website with copyright free photos. They also have other mediums free of use, such as illustrations, videos and music. Donations are welcome and credit to the creator is not necessary. Flickr also has free photo options to choose from. After you type in your desired subject and press search, there is a tab on the left-hand side wher you can filter your search to only get non-copyrighted images. The tab is below the search bar that reads ‘any license’ and you’ll need to change it to ‘all creative commons’. There are some amazing photos to choose from and some not so amazing photos. Tread lightly.
As I previously mentioned creating your own content is the safest option for not infringing on any copyrights. Plus, it is always wonderful to learn and improve upon your skills, which you can then show off on the internet. Now days anyone can be a photographer with how well the cameras on smart phones are improving every year. The key to taking better photos is lighting, angles and a close distance to subject. After the shot has been taken it is time to edit. Play with the highlights and shadows and make sure the photo has structure (details are defined). Graphic designs seems difficult, but I have found a smart phone app that makes it easy to learn. Adobe Spark Post for Graphics is simple and fast for graphic design beginners.
There is plenty of false information out there about copyright laws. And it is super-important to know the correct information, not only so you are credible but also so you don’t get fined (or fired). A popular myth that most people believe is that anyone can use a 10 - 30 second clip from any movie and that it is fair use. This cannot be more false! Another similar misconception is that a screen grab or still from any movie is fair use and this is also not correct. Also, citing your sources does not always mean you are scott-free. Permission is not always needed, but to be safe it is better to have it.
It is important to brush up on the copyright policies whether you are working for yourself or a company. And help educate your coworkers, make sure to discuss what you know about copyright with them so they don’t make any mistakes. Reading articles and watching videos can help you brush up on your copyright knowledge. The best articles are the ones written by lawyers; they will help you get a better perspective on the law and the laws of other countries
Copyright can seem daunting and scary. But it’s not! Educate yourself about copyright laws and always err on the side of caution when using material from the internet.
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