How do I find out if something has copyrights or not?
If you have found a book, image, song, or other commonly copyrighted material and you want to use it within your project the simplest way to ensure you don’t violate copyright law is to give proper credit to the source where you found the object. Contact the original author or creator and ask permission. We don’t live in an ideal universe, however, and many times the original creator is long since lost or simply won’t respond to any attempt at contact. Here are simple ways to make sure that the item you’re using is credited correctly and to avoid tangles in copyright law:
Rule 1: If you don’t own it, don’t use it
If you don’t know where it came from, don’t use it. There are dozens of sites across the web that cater to start up companies that need cheap and affordable content and images without worrying about copyright law. There are even databases that will allow you to browse free content for your websites. There is little reason to take a risk with content that you’re simply not sure.
Rule 2: All things improve with age.
If the item you’re looking to use was published before 1923, the writing and photographs are automatically within the public domain and is safe to use as you wish. If the work was after 1923 but before 1978 than if the object is copy written depends on if the material was published with notice and if the copyright was renewed. After 1978, the works are protected for seventy years after the death of the creator.
There is no easy way to tell if a work is still under copyright protection. To begin your search first find the date the work you are citing was last edited. This date is the copyright date for the work, many times this is provided at the beginning of the work (if it is a book or manuscript). If the medium is a photo or recording use search engines and the title of the work to determine the date of creation. If the date is after 1944 the work is copyright protected unless special circumstances have caused the work to pass into the public domain.
Rule 3: Ask.
If you don’t know where the content came from, you don’t know it’s age, and you don’t know it’s author, and you just HAVE to use the content you can try to ask others where the content came. Post in public forums to ask for other creators to search for what you’re looking. Searching for the creator may show that you took the effort to contact the creator of the work but will not absolve you of copyright law. In the end if you still can’t find the rights of the piece you want you may have to use the item with the understanding the original creator could come demanding money at any time. So, I always revert to rule 1: If you don’t own it, don’t use it.