According to the United States Copyright Office, "your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is
perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device." That is to say, the instant a photograph is taken, a flyer is created, a video is produced, and so on, it becomes subject to the
Copyright laws of the United States. Two important exceptions exist that allow persons to freely use another's work: Creative Commons (CC0) and Fair Use (FUD). If you are using another persons work
without his or her approval and the work is not subject to CC0 or FUD, you are violating the Copyright Law of the United States and subject to penalties.
As a company that produces an enormous amount of digital content, Cardinal Communications is no stranger to having its works used without permission, for profit, by some in the community. When someone infringes another person's copyright, the Copyright Act allows the copyright owner to seek several types of damages. First, the copyright owner may elect to recover the actual amount of money he or she lost as a result of the infringement, along with any additional profits made by the infringer. This is known as "actual damages." Actual damages are intended to put the parties back in the financial position they would have been in had there been no infringement. Alternatively the copyright owner may elect to recover so-called "statutory damages." To be eligible for this option, the copyrighted work must have been registered with the U.S. Copyright Office before the violation began or, in the case of a published work, within three months of publication. Statutory damages are based on the number of works that were infringed (as opposed to the number of infringing acts, or the number of copies made).
Bottom Line: Did you create the work? If not, whatever the item is, it is NOT yours to use freely,
even if there is no copyright symbol. If you were to pass an unlocked bicycle on the sidewalk, would you take it? Of course not; that is obviously stealing! The same applies for a photograph on the
Internet. Look for the license or permissions before you use anything that isn’t yours or you could be subject to serious legal ramifications.