Tuesday, December 15, 2020

How Can I Make Sure I Get Credit for My Work?

Dear Rich: I want to copyright a report I researched and wrote and hope to sell to a museum. 
My report includes my collection of 19th-century photographs, most of which are extremely rare. When researchers use the report, I want them to credit me. How do I do that? When I tried to register my report at the Copyright Office, I was told that I could not claim copyright in the photos, only the text. Should I let the Copyright Office switch my registration to merely text and lose all ability to include photographs? 
Let's start with the things you can't do. 
  • You can't claim copyright in photos published before 1925 or in unpublished photos taken by photographers who died before 1950. These photos are in the public domain and free for anyone to copy.
  • You can't claim copyright solely based on your ownership of a photo. Purchasing a print is not the same as purchasing the copyright.
  • You can't register your report with the Copyright Office unless you declare whether your book contains pre-existing works. Pre-existing works might include your public domain photos, a foreword by a third party, or any previously registered or previously published works that are included in your book. The goal is to show what you contributed (the text).
  • You can't require attribution unless you have an agreement such as a license that requires it. (You can sue under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, however, if the infringer removes copyright management information (CMI).)   
The Creative Commons License. If attribution is your primary concern, you may wish to pursue a Creative Commons license. (You can use their License Chooser to determine the best match for you.) You don't give up your copyright and you don't need a copyright registration. Instead, you permit users to freely copy your text and as a quid pro quo for the free use, the Creative Commons license requires a specific attribution. If the user doesn't provide attribution, the copyright owner can sue for violation of the Creative Commons license agreement, copyright infringement, and violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

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