In this section, we’ll discuss.

  • Copyrighting Your Work
  • Using Copyrighted Works
  • Attribution

Copyrighting Your Work

The moment you write something, take a photo, write a song, choreograph a piece, etc., that work is copyrighted and you are the owner of that copyright. Copyright ownership and protection is available for an author/creator if three requirements are met.

  • Fixation: The work exists in a medium from which the author’s expression can be read, seen, or heard, either directly or by the aid of a machine.
  • Originality: The work owes its origin and independent creation to an author
  • Minimal Creativity: The work is the product of at least a minimal level of creativity.

What are your rights as a copyright owner?

  • To reproduce your work.
  • To prepare derivative works based upon the work.
  • To distribute copies of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending.
  • To perform the work publicly.
  • To display the copyrighted work publicly.
  • In the case of sound records, to perform the work publicly by means of digital audio transmission.
  • In the case of a “work of visual art,” the author has certain rights of attribution and integrity.

These are your automatic rights as a copyright owner. To further protect your work, or if you plan on selling it, you can register it with the U.S. Copyright Office, which generally requires fees. However, once registered through the U.S. Copyright Office, your work may be eligible for statuary damages and attorney’s fees if used without permission. Additionally, you are not required to use the © symbol to indicate that your work is copyrighted.

You can also copyright your entire website. For more information regarding copyrighting a website, visit This is done through the U.S. Copyright Office and requires a deposit.

Using Copyrighted Works

If you want to use an image or work published on the Internet, you must consider the risks. Fines for illegally using copyrighted images can amount to $25,000, plus attorney’s fees and damages! However, you are allowed to use copyrighted images and works under “Fair Use.” Fair Use allows the public to use copyrighted works under certain circumstances.

There are four factors used to determine Fair Use.

  • The purpose and character of your use.
  • The nature of the copyrighted work.
  • The amount and substantial of the portion taken.
  • The effect of the use upon the potential market.

The first factor is the most important when a case is considered by attorneys. Copyright law states that if the work is going to be used “for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.” (17 USC Section 107) How are you going to use this photo on your website? For educational purposes? To write a product review? Or, just to make your site pretty? If the purpose is not in line with Fair Use, you may be infringing copyright law.

There are many free photo sites that provide high quality images you can use on your site.

Additionally, many people are very wiling to let you use their work for non-commercial reasons. Contact artists and photographers directly to obtain permission.


Many photos available on Flickr just require attribution for their use. This site demonstrates how to correctly attribute works: However, keep in mind that providing attribution for a work does not give you an automatic pass to use it.

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