“If there isn’t any copyright notice, it’s not copyrighted”
This is among the biggest myths in the field of internet copyright laws. While this was actually true in the past, most regions now follow what is known as the Berne copyright convention. For example, in the US almost everything which was created on or after April 1989 is copyrighted and subsequently under protection. Especially where internet copyright laws are concerned, it is safe to assume that anything you see online is protected by a copyright. While there are a few older works that have lost coverage over time, it is a good move to ask prior to using anything which you see online for your own projects. Though a lot of people make use of the letter “C” in parenthesis, i.e. (C) to show that their work is copyrighted, it has never been given any legal credence. Rather, look for and additionally use the written letter “C” inside of a circle to indicate copyrighted work.
“If I don’t earn any money, it’s not a violation of copyright”
Regretfully, this is wrong as well. While courts can order someone to pay a lot more money to the copyright holder if they have charged for their offense, the simple fact continues to be that it is completely wrong to take someone else’s work and sell it. It should be understood that damages can be high if the commercial value of the property in question was impacted, regardless of whether or not the person who violated the copyright sold the content or gave it away at no cost. If the property has virtually no industrial value, a violation still exists but is less likely to result in legitimate action for the violator. Among the most common internet copyright laws you might know of, duplicating files like music and movies through file sharing or distributing physical copies on disc are some examples of this violation in action.
“If I create anything of my own from it, it now belongs to me”
Most fan works like written fiction and visual arts creations are technically derivatives of the original work, and subsequently belong to the holder of the original copyright. While numerous major media and publishing companies turn a blind eye to works produced by fans, it should be obvious to everyone that internet copyright laws allow them to take lawful action if they should choose to do so. Their lack of action is their preference. While this may not appear fair (because almost all of these derivative works require a good deal of time and effort to produce) the simple fact remains that the original tale / film / song / etc that the brand new work was based off of still belongs to the individual who created it in the first place.
Internet copyright laws are not excessively difficult to figure out; many of them are pretty cut and dry. If something appears to be copyrighted, it probably should be copyrighted and therefor likely is. Because of this, you should ask for the author’s permission prior to utilizing the property in any of your projects whether or not it is for retail or personal use. If you are not able to come across the information for you to contact the initial owner, do not use the work! It is not worth the chance of discovering later on that you have committed a copyright laws violation!