Beware of these myths about copyrighted materials:

If it doesn’t have a copyright notice, it’s not copyrighted.

That use to be correct. However, almost everything created privately and originally after April 1, 1989 is copyrighted and protected whether it has a notice or not.

If I don’t charge for it, it’s not a violation.

Wrong again. It is a violation if you copy and give copyrighted works away. There are serious penalties and damages awarded if you hurt the commercial value of the property when giving it away.

If it’s posted to Usenet it’s in the public domain.

Nothing is in the public domain unless the owner has donated it into the public domain or the works copyright has expired.

My posting was just fair use!

Fair use is usually a short excerpt. It was created to allow things such as commentary, parody, news reporting, research and education about copyrighted works without the permission of the author. It should not harm the commercial value of the work.

That is result in interference with the works creator economic livelihood.

If you don’t defend your copyright you lose it.

As it was stated before, unless the owner has donated it into the public domain or the works copyright has expired all created works remain copyrighted.

If I make up my own stories, but base them on another work, my new work belongs to me.

This is what is called of what are called a “derivative works” — works based or derived from another copyrighted work. If your work include proprietary information from another’s work, you must obtain permission. There is an exception — criticism and parody. The fair use provision says that if you want to make fun of or criticize another’s work you can do so without permission.

They can’t win, defendants in court have powerful rights.

Copyright infringement is a civil law. You can be sued for damages. In some cases you can be charged with criminal felony.

Who does it hurt — in fact it’s free advertising.

That is not your choice if you are not the owner of the work. You must get permission to use copyrighted work. Miss use can negatively affect the creators economic livelihood.

I received it as an email, can’t I post it?

Email is copyrighted. Unless reprint rights have been extended to you by the owner you can not post it. It can be discussed in your writings to others. But never transmitted verbatim without the owner’s permission.

So what is allowable?

The owner of the work owns all rights to their works. If you have even the slightest doubt whether a piece of work is copyrighted or in the public domain, seek out the owner and get permission.

Beware of these myths about copyrighted materials.