A week or so ago business writer and blogger Cathy Miller warned people to be careful about copyrights when posting photos. I asked if she knew anything about international copyrights and she provided a link to A Copyright Refresher, which is a great overview of U.S. copyright law.
As she points out, copyright law is pretty territorial – that is, each country has it’s own rules.
So what’s a blogger to do? After all, as I pointed out in Waking up from time to time, I try to help this blog gets visitors from all over the world, and I know I’m not alone.
Cathy also posted links to the U.S. Copyright Office, the UK Copyright Service and the Australian Government – Intellectual Property – Copyright which is fine, but I’m not about to start chasing rules one country at a time.
Plus she reminded me of Jonathan Bailey’s hugly valuable site, PlagiarismToday.com – every writer should bookmark this one.
Of course, I live and write in the U.S. and we’re the big gorilla when it comes to copyright and other laws, at least at the moment, so in truth I don’t worry much about it.
And there are efforts to negotiate an international copyright treaty, or actually several.
The U.S. Copyright office has published Circular 38, titled International Copyright Relations of the United States, fortunately available free in .pdf form.
It’s interesting in a wonky sort of way. And can be valuable if your work is used without your permission in a county that’s signed one of the treaties. In that case, at least in theory, you could take some action that might be honored.
Of course, no matter where you are, you shouldn’t use someone else’s work without their permission, even if they are in a country that hasn’t signed a copyright treaty.
That’s why I so often post images I find through a Creative Commons image search. Most of those are free to use and alter.
I also licence some of my work through Creative Commons. It’s unclear if such a license is actually enforceable, but it does let me say what terms I’ll let you use the work in question. I like it because it avoids the either/or of our standard copyright.
What’s your approach to copyrights – both in what you use and in your own work?