Copyright is as much a right of ownership as is the title deed to a piece of property. It is also a tangled web and one of the most misunderstood – and, unfortunately, misrepresented – rights that exist.

If someone tried to set up house on your family farm, it would be easy enough to make your position clear. You – or a lawyer – would simply present them with the title deeds, and your right to that property would be demonstrated. And precisely because this is so straightforward, because property ownership rights are well understood, the likelihood of someone moving into your top 5-acre field is pretty minimal.

So why do we have so much confusion about copyright?

NB: This post contains my musings on the subject. I am not a lawyer and this article is not intended as legal advice. The author assumes no responsibility for actions taken based on information contained in this article. When in doubt, seek legal advice from an experienced copyright or media law attorney.

My Own Copyright Example

We needed a foto of a Peregrine Falcon to use on the site. I am a keen fotographer and most of the fotos you see on any of our websites are my own, but I have not yet had the opportunity to fotograph a peregrine.

Easy, you would think, just type peregrine into Google Images, find a foto, copy and paste, and there you are.

Well . . Yes, it would work in theory.

But it is a firm No according to the law, and – for us – it is a No based on what we read in the Word.

Copyright and Creation

The casual throwaway comment so often heard is of the ilk of: “Oh, but that is just a foto. Anyone could have snapped that shot.”

Maybe, maybe not. But no-one else actually did. And who can say how much preparation, thought, and artistic talent went into presenting that one image.

Urban and Christian myths

One Christian myth I have heard is that because God created everything then we must not claim ownership to any of it, and any fotos should be free for all.

God gave us the responsibility of looking after His creation. That means work, and the Word also says that a labourer is worthy of his hire, that we deserve due recompense for the work of our hands.

A fotograph on a website is as much someone’s work as a painting on a wall. If I were to take a painting from an artist’s wall and wander out the door with it, then both he and the local police would surely have something to say about it

Urban Myths about Copyright

The ‘urban myths’ seem to think it’s OK to use a foto if it does not have a © on it, or because it is being shared on a free forum, or if a disclaimer such as “I do not own the rights . .” is tagged on. Not necessarily so.

The copyright of a creative published work, including photographs, is owned by the creator even if it does not carry a copyright symbol.

º More on copyright myths here: Law Office of Lloyd J Jassin

º An excellent article on copyright by lawyer Brad Frazer can be found here: Copyright Is Not a Verb.

Another reference I have found to be pertinent is:

Brief quotes from there:
“These days, almost all things are copyrighted the moment they are written, and no copyright notice is required.
Copyright is still violated whether you charged money or not, only damages are affected by that.”

Brandon Holden

Our thanks to Brandon Holden, photographer extraordinaire of falcons and other birdlife, who open-heartedly gave us permission to use his superb images.

You can see Brandon’s work here: Brandon Holden Photographs

Should we use photographs by other photographers it is with permission, and we give creative credit.
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