Copyright Myths

Myth: "The work I want to use doesn't have a copyright notice on it, so it's not copyrighted. I'm free to use it."
Most published works contain a copyright notice. However, for works published on or after March 1, 1989, the use of copyright notice is optional. The fact that a work doesn't have a copyright notice doesn't mean that the work is not protected by copyright.

Myth: "I don't need a license because I'm only using a small amount of the copyrighted work."
It is true that de minims copying (copying a small amount) is not copyright infringement. Unfortunately, it is rarely possible to tell where de minims copying ends and copyright infringement begins. There are no "bright line" rules.

Myth: "Since I'm planning to give credit to all authors whose works I copy, I don't need to get licenses."
If you give credit to a work's author, you are not a plagiarist (you are not pretending that you authored the copied work). However, attribution is not a defense to copyright infringement.

Myth: "My multimedia work will be a wonderful showcase for the copyright owner's work, so I'm sure the owner will not object to my use of the work."
Don't assume that a copyright owner will be happy to have you use his or her own work. Even if the owner is willing to let you use the work, the owner will probably want to charge you a license fee. Content owners view multimedia as a new market for licensing their material.

Myth: "I don't need a license because I'm going to alter the work I copy."
Generally, you cannot escape liability for copyright infringement by altering or modifying the work you copy. If you copy and modify protected elements of a copyrighted work, you will be infringing the copyright owner's modification right as well as the copying right.

Myth: "If I find something on the Net, it's okay to copy it and use it without getting permission."
While you are free to copy public domain material that you find on the Net, generally you should not copy copyrighted material without getting permission from the copyright owner whether you find the material on the Net or in a more traditional medium(Book, music, CD, software disk, etc.).

Myth: "Anyone who puts material on the Web server wants people to use that material, so I can do anything I want with material that I get from a Web server."
Individual and organizations put material on a Web server to make it accessible by others. They do not give up their copyright rights by putting material on a Web Server. Also, the person who posted the material may not own it.

Myth: "It's okay to copy material from a Home Page or web site without getting permission."
Much of the material that appears in web sites and Home Pages is protected by copyright. If you want to use something from someone else's Home Page or web site, get permission unless permission to copy is granted in the text of the Home Page or web site.

Myth: "It's okay to use copyrighted material in my Web site so long as no one has to pay to visit my Web site."
Unless your use of copyrighted work is fair use, you need a license to copy and use the work in your web site even if you won't be charging people to view your web site.(You also need a Public Display license.)

Myth: "It's okay to make other people's copyrighted material available on my Web server so long as I don't charge people anything to get the material."
Copying and distributing copyrighted material without permission can be copyright infringement even if you don't charge for the copied material. Making material available for others to copy can be contributory infringement.


© 1996 J. Dianne Brinson & Mark F. Radcliffe
Primer based on Multimedia Law and Business Handbook

For more great Myths, check out 10 Big Myths about copyrights explained
    Note: Some may be repeated from above, however, check out the ones on email, linking, and derivative works!

Benjamin Merrell / Copyright Specialist / 541.737.3978 / benjamin.merrell@oregonstate.edu