Commons:Copyright does not equal copyvio

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What does it mean?

Common misconception: whenever there is a copyright symbol (©) on a photo or in its metadata, it must be copyvio.



"CC licenses are copyright licenses, and depend on the existence of copyright to work. CC licenses are legal tools that creators and other rights holders can use to offer certain usage rights to the public, while reserving other rights. Those who want to make their work available to the public for limited kinds of uses while preserving their copyright may want to consider using CC licenses."

So you could put a copyright symbol on any Creative Commons-licensed work and it wouldn't be wrong. Copyright symbols haven't been required to register or validate copyright for decades, but old habits die hard. Copyright symbols are usually meaningless for recent works.

Reasons why a copyright symbol or the word "copyright" may be found on some files anyway:

  1. To indicate who the author is, for attribution purposes.
  2. To clarify the file is not in the public domain and the author expects the license terms to be respected.
  3. The copyright of the file may have been exploited previously, but the file has now been made available with a free license or the copyright has expired. The copyright notice is just a leftover.
  4. The author may automatically add a copyright notice to all their files and only release some with a free license. This is especially common for professional photographers who do work for hire.
  5. Some cameras add a copyright notice to metadata automatically, possibly without the user even knowing.
  6. Some cameras and software add bogus copyright claims in the EXIF metadata. Spreadtrum (a Chinese fabless semiconductor company which produces chipsets for mobile phones) and ArcSoft are notorious for this. You can use {{Wrong Exif}} to alert readers to such bogus claims.
  7. Some websites will add a bogus "©2019" notice to all their pages and images, regardless of actual copyright status or who the author is.

Despite all this, when a new user uploads files with copyright notices they need to be scrutinized. A copyright notice can hint towards a copyright violation, but it doesn't have to be one. Search the web for the claimed copyright holder. If it is a (semi) professional photographer or the photo has been published before it was uploaded to Commons, OTRS is needed. If the copyright holder is a stock photo company and the image is claimed to be in the public domain, verify that claim. Many stock photo sites sell content of which the copyright has expired.