Never before has the public had such easy access to media components such as images and audio files. It is a common misconception that files found on the internet are there for general use. Certainly, some are put there by generous donors but many are copyright protected and are only for your viewing or listening purposes. Appropriating these files for your personal use would be a breach of copyright law and can result in prosecution.
So, what exactly is copyright? Under the Canadian Copyright Act, by default, a creative work belongs to the person who created it. The right to reproduce the material in any way belongs exclusively to the owner. Four main categories of copyright protected materials are music, art, literature and drama. The owner also has exclusive rights to develop the original work into other media. An example would be an author developing their book into a film.
An owner can assign or license copyright to another person or group. In order for this to be legally binding, the permission must be given in writing. Licensed copyright results in the owner being paid royalty fees which are essentially payments based on predetermined usage.
When you are sourcing free images, fonts or sound files from the internet, be careful to read the small print associated with each individual item. Some owners give full permission to use the material freely, others specify that it can be used for non-commercial purposes only and others request that you credit them somewhere in your project. It is good etiquette to give credit where it is due, especially when someone has been kind enough to donate something free of charge.
For a more detailed resource on copyright law, please visit: