I Current laws only require that something be published. If I post a picture of my favorite coin
, that photo is covered by copyright law from the moment of publication or posting.
Bill is very much correct, but there are a few fine
points that I feel he has wrong. I have to teach copyright law in my computer classes, so I have done a lot of reading on it, including the actual laws.
First, you do not have to publish something to have it copyrighted. It has to be in a fixed form, which is not the same as published. If I write a song and fix it on a sheet of paper, I own the copyright to it. I could also have sung the song and recorded it. Now if I just sing a song, and do not fix it in some way, I have no copyright on it.
Second, the copyrighted item must show some originality and creativity. It also must not be a derived work
(based on someone else's work
.) This has been defined by court cases.
It has also been determined, again by case law, that when you look at picture on the Internet, you have made a copy of it, because it must reside inside your computer some place (temp file or in your computer's memory.) This has brought out some interesting lawsuits and is still
being tested in court, especially for the music
Finally, when you use copyrighted material, under the fair
use doctrine, you do not have to pay any fees for its use. So, if I am copying a couple of charts out of a book to use in a class, I don't have to pay the publisher any thing and I don't have to ask for their permission.
Now, on the Internet, it is polite, and I feel proper, to ask before you use a picture or what ever. Also you should always give create.