Get to know these common copyright myths

Copyrights are an important way to protect your work. Not all the things you've been told about copyrights may be accurate, though.

There are many myths about copyrights and when they take effect. There are also myths about how to get copyrights. Here are four myths to learn the truth about.

1. If you don't use a copyright symbol, your work isn't copyrighted

This myth is highly damaging, because it's simply untrue. Your work does not have to have a copyright symbol to be copyrighted. There has been no formal requirement for the symbol since 1978.

What that means is that your work is copyrighted from the moment you create it in a tangible medium. Is it a good idea to use the symbol? Probably, but if you don't, it isn't going to ruin your chances of protecting your work.

2. Mailing yourself your own work copyrights it

Mailing yourself your own work doesn't copyright it. It may give you a good time stamp, showing when you mailed an idea or product, but that isn't a copyright in and of itself. You should still register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office.

3. Fair use protects people who want to use other people's work

Fair use is an exemption in copyright law. It makes it so an infringer won't be held liable for using another person's copyrighted work without their permission to do so. Fair use can protect people in some cases, but fair use generally requires that a new piece, whether it's art or a product, is different enough from the original that it's essentially an entirely new work. Whether or not the piece is commercial doesn't usually matter.

4. Creative Commons licenses allow the full, unrestricted reuse of a piece of work

This is not exactly true. Creative Commons make it easier for creators to allow others to use their work in a limited manner. Some may choose to allow full use without restrictions other than naming them as the original content creators. Others might limit use to noncommercial use. Creative Commons just makes it easier for a user to get the license to use a piece of work, but it doesn't generally give someone the right to use a work in any way they'd like.

In any case of copyright use, you need to know what is and is not legal. If you are struggling to understand your rights as a creator or are being accused of violating copyright law, it's important to speak with your attorney. They can explain to you how you may have violated the law or what you can do to protect yourself and your creations as a person looking into copyrighting your work.

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