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!