copyrightIn the creative/maker space there are many questions about intellectual property (IP) rights, specifically copyright.  I have some experience in this area having licensed images and worked with attorneys to get some trademarks (which is completely different than copyright, but both are under the IP umbrella).  Additionally, I ran several law firms (not IP related).

Please note that I will update this post with resources as I encounter them.



Here is my best plain English understanding:

  1. Most creative works in the US pre-1923 will be in the public domain.  This means they are free to use.  But, this should not be seen as a blanket statement.  Each piece will have different situation.
  2. Simply because it is available via the internet does NOT mean that you have the right to use it!  Just because there is a copy machine doesn’t negate the author’s right to the intellectual property of the book they wrote.
  3. Commercial Use:  Make sure you have the rights you need.  If you are unsure…you don’t have them!  Also, make sure to follow any and all restrictions.
  4. Personal Use:  Make sure you have the rights you need.  The rights don’t change for personal use.  What changes is the probability of enforcement.  One “argument” I have read multiple times in internet maker groups is… I wouldn’t have paid for it (say a personalized Starbucks logo), but are willing to make it…simply put, you don’t have the rights.  You might willing to shoulder the probably of being sued.  You are doing something wrong, illegal, and that can have negative repercussions for you…if the copyright holders decides to take legal action.  Also, make sure to follow any and all restrictions.
  5. Fair Use:  This is when you use a small piece of the work in reviews or research papers.  It might include using the Starbucks logo for a bake sale flyer, if you are selling Starbucks coffee/products.  Fair use is NOT personal use.
  6. Intellectual property rights are specific to a piece of work, the laws when they were created, the country, and more.

Again, this is my best nonattorney understanding.

If you have any questions regarding intellectual property rights

please talk with the maker and/or an attorney.



  1. Copyright Law of the United States
  2. American Library Association Office for Information Technology Policy 
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