The Copyright Act, which is designed to protect creators, has an exception in Section 107. This allows them to take an image or graphic, and label it as being their own work, even if it isn’t. (This is a big deal, because even if you don’t have a copyright to the image in your image bank, you could have a copyright in the whole file if you have the whole image somewhere, or you did something with it in your image bank after you did you thing).
But that kind of distinction is often confusing. An image is like a lot of other digital files; the Copyright Act doesn’t define them as a copyrighted thing.
Now, you may disagree with me, but I would not say that my pictures are their own copyright because my pictures are just digital files. I’ve used others in my image bank (and I’m not making a big deal about it), so they’re copyrightable. That is how I see a watermark.
I could also have watermarked pictures which aren’t mine, but they’re not my pictures (they would be copyrightable if my watermark isn’t there).
Now we move into the realm of what you can say about individual images, which is the last bit of copyright law where watermarks are a big deal.
What the law says about watermarks at a local level
If you know there’s a watermark for someone’s name, phone number, address or some other common place, you may wish to make sure you get permission to use the image that has the mark.
When you go to buy something, do you look up the product’s price, and then use pictures of it for every ad you run in your newspaper? That kind of thing is a good use of your image bank, but it is against the Copyright Act to use your image for that at the moment of purchase.
But some people just want to use a picture, without anyone getting involved in making it. The Copyright Act says it’s fine to use the image as a reference for any purpose, but not for “a single or limited purpose.” A copyright claim doesn’t apply to these uses, unless the person using it says they are infringing on the copyright, which is very doubtful, because people could also be using it for everything from a business newsletter to a local public service announcement to to a local newspaper.
And that means that this last use, of using my images for a local
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