Earlier this month, The Metropolitan Museum, along with many other museums and libraries, released hundreds of thousands of artworks to the public domain. Because of this, works by Klimt, Monet, Van Gogh, and other artists are now free for the general public to use, reproduce, and alter however they please. So, what does public domain mean exactly? According to Stanford University Libraries, public domain refers to any creative works that are not protected by any intellectual property laws; anyone can use the work for any reason, but no one can own it. The internet has, admittedly, made it much easier for anyone to steal the intellectual and creative property of artists despite laws that have been put in place to protect the work of those who create.
It can be difficult to navigate all the various intellectual property and copyright terms, so we’ve put together this quick guide for you to get acquainted with the terminology and start to learn how you can protect your work on the internet.
Creative Commons is a company that was started to help expand the library of creative works that are available for others to use. A Creative Commons license offers a couple license options to allow a creator to decide how their works can be used. Creative Commons licenses exist within copyright law but offers a third option for those who don’t wish to restrict all use or allow complete free use.1
All Rights Reserved
All rights reserved is a phrase that has been used in conjunction with copyright for many years. Despite being relatively unnecessary in the art world as artists hold automatic copyright to their works, it provides an understanding to viewers that their works are not to be reproduced or used without permission.2
Fair Use exists somewhere between All Rights Reserved and Public Domain. It is specifically a US legal doctrine that, according to Wikipedia, “permits limited use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission from the rights holders.” Fair Use can cover parody, commentary, news reporting, and research.3
Fair Dealing is similar to Fair Use. Fair Dealing is held under copyright law in the Commonwealth of Nations. It is not as open as the US Fair Use law and should be researched based on the country in which you reside.4
All information presented here is for basic guidance only. Artists should always research their rights and seek a lawyer’s advice when necessary.