Whose right is it anyway?

Whose right is it anyway?It is not uncommon for me, as a copyWRITER, to receive phone calls from people who are actually seeking information about copyRIGHTS. I explain the difference(s) to them and direct them to the Copyright Office’s home page.

It’s also not uncommon, for those company professionals who do understand the difference between “write” and “right,” to think that they own the rights to use copy for whatever purpose they want. This is not the case and it is my hope to clarify this for you in this issue.

In an article for the former Internet World, Elizabeth Gardner wrote, “If you’ve hired an independent designer to create images for your site, or a writer to provide text, the copyright on their work is automatically theirs, not yours…”

When an independent copywriter writes creative content for your brochure, you only own the right to use that content in that specific brochure. If you use it elsewhere, the writer should be compensated accordingly.

It’s similar to stock photography. If you use a stock photo for a brochure, you pay one price. BUT, if you want to use it for a brochure, a print advertisement, and a Web page, you pay a higher fee for the right to do so.

Published in the Advertising & Marketing Review, the article, “Legal Matters: Registering Your Copyright,” reported that “Copyright is a federal right owned by the author of a work to exclude others from reproducing the work, creating derivative works . . .”

Taking content from a brochure and using it for a Web site, direct mail package, advertisement, falls under the category of “creating derivative works.”

Of course, you may purchase the rights from a graphic designer and/or writer so that you are free to use content or design as you deem appropriate.

Have a comment on copywriting? Please share you comments below because I’d love to hear from you. Have questions about copyrights, visit the U.S. Copyright Office Web site.

Disclaimer: The information herein is provided as a service by Debra Jason and The Write Direction. Neither takes responsibility for delivering legal advice. Please consult legal counsel to obtain answers to any specific questions you have regarding the details of copyright law.

Debra Jason

Marketing & writing with heart, not hype at at The Write Direction
A recipient of the “Creative Person of the Year” award, Debra educates and empowers creative solopreneurs and enthusiastic business owners to create a lifestyle business that provides them with the flexibility, fun and freedom to do what they love. She also inspires you to communicate your marketing message in a way that captivates and converts your prospects into loyal, raving fans - even if you have been struggling with how to transform your ideas into words in the past.


  1. This is great information Debra. I don’t think many people realize when you create content for them, unless otherwise stated, the content can only be used for the intended prupose.
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  2. Too funny, Debra – I’ve been working on an article for Tuesday (that’ll I’ll modify for a speech later in the month) on the difference between copywriting and copyright. I’ve moved to an area where people don’t know what a copywriter is so I get a lot of copyright aid requests.

    For contractor work, I tend to work with designers (and photographers and other related vendors) who provide solutions where they maintain the copyright, but otherwise handle it as a “work made for hire.” Since I work primarily with small businesses and not-for-profits, it reduces a lot of stress all the way around. You make great points about how the law reads. Anyone contracting the services of another should get very clear upfront about what kind of permission they’re being given for use before a project starts. Those providing the work should do so too. I’ve found most people who violate copyright claim ignorance.
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