According to the United States Copyright Office, “Copyright is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works.

Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed.”

For detailed information, visit the Copyright Office site at



Trademarks are issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office that has provided the following information, “The term “trademark” is often used to refer to any of the four types of marks that can be registered with the USPTO. The two primary types of marks that can be registered with the USPTO are:

  • Trademarks – used by their owners to identify goods, that is, physical commodities, which may be natural, manufactured, or produced, and which are sold or otherwise transported or distributed via interstate commerce.
  • Service marks – used by their owners to identify services, that is, intangible activities, which are performed by one person for the benefit of a person or persons other than himself, either for pay or otherwise.

There are other types of marks that can be registered in the USPTO, but they occur infrequently and have some different requirements for registration than the more commonly applied for trademarks and service marks. They are:

  • Certification marks
  • Collective marks
  • Collective trademarks and collective service marks
  • Collective membership marks”

For more information, visit the United States Patent and Trademark Office at


Privacy Rights and Publicity Rights

Most privacy rights have to do with how the photos or videos are taken. For example, photographing people in public places is normally OK, but shooting through the window of someones house, even while standing on a public sidewalk is not OK.  It is also wrong to portray someone in a false light.

In most cases where we are using public domain or Creative Commons licensed video we are going to be worried about publicity rights. you cannot use someone’s likeness for commercial purposes without their express permission. If you are using the photo or video for news or editorial purposes publicity rights are usually not an issue. This is the reason newspapers and television news can legally publish or broadcast images of people without their permission.

However, the line between commercial and non-commercial is blurred, so in using an image or video of a person where you don’t have a model release, it is best to err on the side of caution. Be aware also that privacy laws may vary by state.