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A word about copyright

November 26, 2017
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Copyright law can be complex in today’s world but the concept originated in 6th Century Ireland when books were created from vellum.

Some of you have been asking about copyright, in the context of using images for your projects. Copyright is an automatic right and it means that anybody who creates an image or a text that can be copied is the automatic owner of the right to copy that creation. Therefore, if you want to copy something created by somebody else you need their permission first.
Nevertheless, some people are happy to allow others the use of their work, in fact they may want wide exposure and so encourage the use of their creations, so long as the user doesn’t earn any money for it. You may have seen such work listed as Creative Commons – this blog is covered by Creative Commons for example. In addition, many copyright owners do not mind if their work is used in an educational context by students, so long as it is not for profit, or wide circulation.
Copyright provides limited protection because it is not enforced by the state. Any individual who believes their copyright has been infringed has to take a private case to court and prove it – this can be costly and risky.
However, copyright runs out in time. Once an image or text is out of copyright anybody may use it freely.
Copyright originated in Ireland in the 6th Century when a dispute about the ownership of a copied vellum (calfskin) manuscript led to the judgement that ‘To every cow belongs her calf, therefore to every book belongs the copy.’ You can read more about copyright in the wikipedia History of copyright law. For more on copyright law see wikipedia on Copyright.
So, the best guidance is that if you use images from the web be careful that you are not using copyright images unless absolutely necessary. There are many images to choose from that are free of copyright. Also, it is always a good idea to credit anybody else’s work so you cannot be accused of passing it off as your own.

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