Writers, Artists and Copyright

Very interestingly, an infographic on copyright law was published online by GMA News. I looked at it and have found it very useful and not at all that hard to understand, even though they mentioned about misunderstanding jargon if one has no background in law. Honestly, I didn’t see much jargon there at all. But if one is a bit at a loss, it won’t hurt to do a little research by making a Google search, for instance, or checking out online dictionaries and encyclopedia (I like using TheFreeDictionary.com a lot). Some of these stuff, we have discussed before (HERE and HERE).

While the infographic basically tackles copyright law for writers and artists in the Philippines, it can definitely be informative for non-Filipinos and non-Philippine dwellers. Besides, as mentioned in it, ours is based on the US Copyright Law and the US, as we know, is often the accepted basis of things worldwide. Some may contest, maybe, but I did say “often”, not “always”.

Check out this infographic and I hope you find it useful 🙂

Copyright Law for Writers and Artists


The Philippine Copyright Law for Writers and Artists, based on the US Copyright Law

Do You Get the Picture?


Yes, you can’t read this so click on the image to get a better view. It is from the article Can I Use that Picture? by Curtis Newbold of TheVisualCommunicationGuy

I found the colorful infographic that you see above last week, and chances are you’ve probably encountered it already, too. It tackles image copyrights  and I had been meaning to share it here. Somehow, though, I could not get myself to post immediately because questions were brewing in my head.

Basically, the intention was to give us a guide on how to legally use images we find or even how to avoid others that are strictly copyrighted. It’s nice to look at, though a bit overwhelming and can somehow confuse, which I’m not surprised about as creator Curtis Newbold lumped lots of info on it. Nevertheless, it still makes things concise and easier to understand.

At least, I thought so at first.

Many commenters do/did not think so. Reader Thomas MacEntee of Geneabloggers.com, in fact, voiced out what was on my mind regarding what’s still considered copyrighted and what’s considered under public domain when the original owner has already passed away, something that I, myself, have read about years ago. Well, in the US, there is a law that addresses the question How Long Does Copyright Protection Last? I would like to think and hope all countries have the same or similar law, to be honest. I haven’t gone on doing research on this even here where I am just yet.


A guide on copyright lifespan in the US. Cool, eh? Don’t worry, sharing this for non-commercial purposes is allowed, as indicated by the little license seal at the bottom-left corner. Click on the image to visit the site and find out for yourself whether what you have is still copyrighted


Below are my own issues about the first infographic.

Question Posed:Did you take or create the image yourself?”

Following the NO answer thread, let’s jump to the question regarding transforming another person’s original work and the author says yes, it’s usually okay, as long as it’s not recognizable…Uh, NO. That is never okay. Regardless of what changes you’ve made, you cannot take complete credit for something you did not completely create. It is a standard operating procedure, so to speak, to ask permission from the owner first before publishing an edited version of his work, before doing something on his art even. It’s not recognizable anyway? Then who are you fooling, yourself? If you are really talented, you can create your masterpiece all on your own. Take pride!

With regards to parodies, though,  I am admittedly at a loss. To be strict about it, using without permission should be disallowed. But I can’t see much point of a parody if every time it is done, we ask permission to poke fun at someone’s work, the owner, or the subject of the image. A lot of times, as well, owners allow this because it actually boosts site traffic and product sales or popularity. That’s like marketing with the least amount of work and expenses!

Are you publishing an image for the benefit of mankind, though? The POSSIBLY answer is off-base, in my opinion. The fact remains that somebody created it, ergo, somebody owns/owned it. Find out who owns it and ask permission. If that is impossible and unless you are sure it now belongs to the public (public domain),  or will be used while strictly following the Fair Use principle (do keep in mind that other countries may or may not have any, the same or similar doctrines), or is protected under Creative Commons (do check under which agreement ’cause they vary),  DON’T USE IT, PERIOD.

If you’re using it for educational purposes, publishing it in print (for distribution) or online without so much as giving credit to the owner or a link-bank to the original source, as the case maybe, is not a good and ethical practice. Either cite your sources or redirect readers via hyperlinks and especially image URLs.


Symbol for Copyrighted materials


Symbol for materials allowed for Fair Use


The Creative Commons logo. There are various licenses under this


Question Posed:Was the picture you created an original idea?”

For the NO answer, Newbold mentioned that if the picture/image is similar to others’ that it might be considered as theirs, you cannot really use it except for personal use. I would disagree to an extent, that is, if he meant that one was not fully aware when he was creating the image. Could be I am over-thinking it.

First off, if your initial intention was not to copy and you probably weren’t even aware of their own piece, I think it’s just fair that you use it because technically, it’s your own idea. The issue that may have to be resolved is whether you copied or not, but if you can PROVE that you didn’t, then go ahead. For all you know, you created your piece first before they did. Which is why you have to make sure that you copyright your stuff immediately before it reaches the public eye.

For the NOT SURE answer, it was suggested that you do your own research to see if you’ve copied from others. I think that’s hilarious and bordering on paranoia. If you copied, then you would know. Now, if you’re getting an inkling that it might be something that you saw somewhere that got stuck in your head, only then do I recommend a research. Again, that is not copying if the awareness and intention are not there.

I mean, let’s say you were on the beach and saw a great opportunity to shoot a silhouette of a coconut tree against a wonderful backdrop of red sky and the sun setting over the ocean. Then you post it on your blog, unaware that some other beach-goer thought of the same thing at the same place though maybe on some other day. Would that be considered copying? No. And I doubt it would have turned out exactly the same, down to the minutest detail. The opposite holds true, though, if it is some intricate or complicated design or image specifically created for a brand, for instance, and you happen to create a very similar one, which even I would feel like questioning. If you can’t prove you were first with the idea, drop it; you’ll just lose the battle.

copyrights-warningNo one has complete monopoly over an idea. And really, if you’re a prolific artist, it’s crazy to keep looking for similar images that may not have been created yet anyway. That’s one inspiration-killer. Then again, that’s probably just me and my opinion. The thing is, although foresight would be a great weapon against getting yourself into trouble, it all boils down to intention.

Two comments in the Newbold post reminded me of the importance of subject rights and related rights. But these and the issue of Fair Use, plus the legalities concerning the use of social media, all deserve separate and more thorough discussions.

Going back to the infographic, though, I do think it’s a wonderful idea and could be a great tool, if only everything is presented crystal clear. I guess it could have been better presented if segmented in parts. At least, parts that were not clear to the author himself could be temporarily left out. There would be less risk of readers misunderstanding and getting misinformed.


Any thoughts that you can share about the topic? Let us know and share your knowledge and opinions below!

Copyright, Anyone? What to Do to Protect It

Have you ever had a rude awakening? The kind when you find a written work, realize it’s your own and somebody else posted or reproduced it without your knowledge? What’s worse, you are not acknowledged and, worst, he is taking all the credit. I have, twice or thrice, and I’m sure many more writers have.

stealing-copyrighted-worksThe fight for copyrights has been a problem then, it is more of a problem now that it’s gotten easier to copy and paste. So yes, let’s discuss about copyrights. After all, as creative artists, it is very important that we have our IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) protected.

It’s not that we are being selfish, but it is only to keep the unscrupulous from taking credit for what we own. Or at least, to make those who are not aware, well, aware that they simply cannot copy somebody else’s work without permission and/or without giving the author credit. It’s still property theft.

Cybercrime laws, under which copyright infringement or violation issues also fall, vary from country to country, if those laws are present at all. In fact, just last year, the Philippines just passed its Cybercrime Prevention Act. However, due to a temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court, it has yet to be implemented—too many fears expressed by local and international netizens and, IMHO, not unfounded.

The widely accepted international laws are the ones created back in the 1800s, at the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, though they have undergone revisions. So in this century, how can we try to protect what are ours?

For writers (and for other artists, I think practically the same principles apply), these are what I know:

1. Any original idea or work, once put on whatever kind of writing pad—whether online or on actual paper, maybe handwritten or typewritten (or drawn), could be printed out or saved (CD, USB, computer hard drive, diskette or floppy discs if you’re still old school)—becomes your property.

It doesn’t really have to be published anywhere nor do you have to indicate that it belongs to you, if ever it does get published online and in other media. It is, of course, recommended that you indicate it’s yours all the same. Some people are still a bit clueless on how things work, so spoonfeed them for your own sake.

2. The truth of the matter is, it’s your work, thus, the rights over it belongs to you. Do what you will with it. That is, unless you sell your rights to it, like when you get paid so that a publication can use your piece. In that case, the publication owns it. You cannot reuse it somewhere to get paid, else you want a lawsuit slapped on you.


3. Practically the same thing if you make a deal with a publisher and guest post/blog for them. They get to publish something for free, you get exposure for free. It’s like reciprocal linking, except better and more ethical. Normally, the agreement is they publish your piece for you but it doesn’t appear anywhere else, not even in your blog.

4. It is up to you to decide who gets to repost your work, or if you’ll ever allow anyone. So as preventive measure—though I repeat that you really do not have to—you can say,“This work belongs to me. Please do not reproduce without my permission” or something similar.

You may also add something like this: Copyright © 2013 J.Gi Federizo. Some have the date/year and symbol interchanged, but the important thing is the symbol © and your name are there.

Some use “(c)” rather than © but most do not recognize that and I am not sure if it’s really accepted by the law. I think the only reason it gets used is because the person typing does not know yet how to insert the symbol. (Tip: Visit sites and copy-paste the symbol from below the pages. Or if you’re using Word, either click “Insert” then “Special Character” and find it, or simply type “(c)” and click on the space bar and it will most probably automatically take the form of the symbol. Easy as pie…Actually, pie is harder).

5.There is such a term, too, called “copyleft,” no joke. According to The UK Copyright Service,“Copyleft is a term that describes a copyright licencing scheme where the author surrenders some of his rights. Typically a copyleft licence will allow a work to be freely copied, distributed or adapted, provided that all copies or modified versions are also freely available under the same licence.”


You decide what and/or how much access others can have on your works by choosing from options and posting an image of the Unported License in your blog for instance. Like this one that I posted in my Copyrights Place page

Creative Commons is one great example of copyleft licensing. Submit a creation or your website and be “given” the rights to it/them. You have several options to choose from, based on how much access you are allowing others to have on what you own, including possible use for commercial purposes. All you need to do is follow the instructions, read well and choose well.

6. To make it more official, you can actually “obtain” rights by submitting to the proper authorities assigned to check and grant those rights. In the Philippines (where I am), you can submit to the Copyright Division of the National Library of the Philippines.

7. In this modern world, it doesn’t hurt to try older means. I have read years ago that you could snail-mail to yourself copies of your work. That way, they will stamp on the envelop the date when you send it.

DO NOT OPEN once you receive it and just keep it. You will only do this in case somebody gets credit for your work. You can show that you were first, therefore, the rightful owner, based on the envelop. Only then can it be opened in court, in front of the judge. Thus, it is important to show that the envelop has never been opened or tampered with.

[Ed. UPDATE: Well, shame on me, but I just found out this is what is termed as Poor Man’s Copyright. Sorry I didn’t know of it before. Apparently, though, this “supposed” proof of one’s copyright will not hold in court, most sites discussing it are saying. But different sources do tend to differ. In the US, this is not accepted, but in the UK, it is another story. I do have this to say, though: As long as you are sure you can trust your postal service and as long as you make sure you are the first one ever to create a copy and send the material to yourself and to never reveal when exactly you created it, perhaps, this proof can help in times of need. Do make sure you do other means of protecting your copyright. This should just serve as supporting evidence. Just saying.)  

copyright-through-mailsAs an alternative or additional precaution, I try emailing my works to myself as well so there’s less chance of losing my copies and, should it come to it, computer forensics can prove when you emailed them. I send to at least two email accounts as I’ll never know when an account can get hacked or whatever. You might want to do this, too.

There you go! I hope you find any of these tips/information helpful. Did you? Feel free to correct/update me or add anything through the comments. Your inputs are very much welcome. We aim to share what we know to the writing community.

Keep on writing!!!