by Matthew Neve Published 01/10/2010
Another common misconception is that unless you label your photograph with your name and an official ©-style copyright notice then you have no copyright. This again is simply not true in the vast majority of countries around the world and hasn't been since 1989. Since you are the original author and you took the photograph then the work contains your copyright and you retain the rights to the image even if it is unlabelled.
Likewise if you are going to use someone else's photographs' just because they aren't tagged or watermarked doesn't mean they have no copyright, you can safely assume that every photograph on the internet is copyrighted somehow and obtain the author's permission before you attempt to reproduce it anywhere. Likewise the notion that, by using pictures that are not yours, you are simply providing free advertising is false.
Whilst the owner of the photographs may see it that way and not take any action, it is up to them to decide if they even want the advertising and henceforth you still must contact the original photographer and obtain their permission no matter how noble your cause. You should also remember that because copyright law is more in the domains of civil law than criminal law, any copyright violations will probably result in the person committing the offence being sued rather than facing criminal charges. The rules for civil copyright cases are very different to criminal cases.
One of the worst misconceptions is that if you post your works in a public place such as an internet forum then because you are publishing it into the public domain that people can simply take your work and reproduce it and copyright law doesn't apply (many seem to be under the impression that by placing something in the public domain you waive your copyright). This is also untrue, unless you as the photographer specifically state: "I
place these images in the public domain for free use by anyone", then you still retain all copyright to your images. You can also be safely assured that the notion that a computer makes a copy by simply viewing the page does not stand up in court; in copyright law a computer does not make a copy, a person does. Whilst this is not technically true, what the law is allowing for is for you to view an image that has been posted on the internet and that is all, ie you are not allowed to do anything with the copy that was made when you viewed the web page or forum, which it is assumed will eventually be deleted when you clear your internet history.
Remember though that by posting your photographs explicitly into the public domain you lose all of your copyright and anyone can reproduce them and put their own name on them and there is nothing at all that you can do about it.
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