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If something doesn't have a copyright notice, can it be copied?


Question: If something doesn't have a copyright notice, can it be copied?

Many things that are posted to the Internet are posted without a copyright notice of any kind. But does this mean they are free to take and use or should you ask permission? Is it safe to assume that if there is no copyright notice, that the content is free?


Copyright Applies As Soon as the Work is Created

According to the U.S. Copyright office:

Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.

In other words, the moment a work is created in a tangible form, like a website, photo, or video, it is protected by copyright. The creator of the work doesn't need to display a copyright symbol or do anything - the copyright is implicit in the creation of that work.

If you Copy it You Could be Liable

Copying someone else's work without permission puts you in violation of their copyright, whether they have a copyright notice up or not. It is much better to ask permission. It's also safer for you.

If you don't ask permission to use a work, you could be violating their copyright. But if you do, and the work is freely available all you've lost is a little time.

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