Copyright is a legal concept, enacted by most governments, that grants the creator of an original work exclusive rights to its use and distribution, usually for a limited time, with the intention of enabling the creator (e.g. the photographer of a photograph or the author of a book) to receive compensation for their work.
Most jurisdictions recognize copyright limitations, allowing "fair" exceptions to the creator's exclusivity of copyright, and giving users certain rights. The development of digital media and computer network technologies have prompted reinterpretation of these exceptions.
Groups and communities working in the heritage world often confront the issue of copyright, especially as regards the use of someone else's photographs and texts.
Some issues to keep in mind:
- For any words or images that you did not create, you need to clearly identify the source
- In the case of borrowed words, you can use quotations from books, articles, websites etc., with impunity as long as you enclose them in "quotation marks" and provide a full bibliographic citation
- Even if you are paraphrasing (putting into your own words) someone else's idea, you must still provide a citation
- If you are borrowing very long sections of someone else's work, or whole publications (for example, on a website), you will need to obtain permission from the author or publisher. In a case like that, you are probably better just to refer to the source and explain where it can be found
- The principles of fair dealing will normally allow the use of images such as non-art photographs for non-profit, educational or research projects, ideally with source acknowledgement
- If contact information is provided with an image or photograph that requests permission for use, you should ask for permission
- If an image on a website expressly states that the contents are not to be copied or used by others, or only for a fee, then you should not use them, or should pay to do so
- Under no circumstances should you imply that you are the creator of something made by someone else
- If you have major concerns about copyright you should probably consult a lawyer or copyright law expert.