The copyright law states how you may use material that somebody else has created. The law protects texts, pictures, photographs, music, films, computer programs etc. Copyright means that the person or persons who create a work have the right to control how it is used. Copyright regulates a creator’s sole right to artistic and literary works, music, art, photographs, computer programs etc. The originator has the sole right of disposal for these.
The Swedish copyright law (SFS 1960:729) gives all originators, regardless of nationality, the same protection. If you want to use something that somebody else has created, you should and must often ask permission from the copyright holder first.
For published works the general rule is that the author(s) always retain the moral rights to the work while the economic right(s) goes to the publisher.
Can ChatGPT claim copyright for a work?
The short answer: No!
The somewhat longer answer:
According to current legislation, only physical och legal persons can claim – or automatically recieve – copyright for a work.
The question has arisen because it may seem that chatbots create text or other artifacts. If you have tried to use a chatbot yourself, you know that you receive responces to the questions or promptsyou input.
The question became even more relevant when it was discovered that a few scientific articles were published with ChatGPT listed as author.
Today, publishers of scholarly publications generally seem to agree not to approve chatbots as authors. For example, The Committe on Publication Ethics (COPE) states: ”AI tools cannot meet the requirementsnfor authorship as they cannot take responsibility for the submitted work. As non-legal entities, they cannot assert the presence or abscence of a conflivt of interest nor manage copyright and licence agreements.”
As you may notice, COPE relies on copyright legislation.
Copyright legislation is not identical in all countries, but the basic content is largely the same. Forus in Sweden, we can also note that the differences between Swedish law and EU law in this case is currently very small.
But even if you are not going to refer to ChatGPT as the author of the text, there may be other very good reasons to openly disclose how and for what purpose you have used it (or any other chatbot) during the work on your text.Ideally, you should describe this in the section of your text where you account for the methods and tools you have used.
Examples of how to reference a chatbot/genAI will soon be found on the page Writing references (here in writingguide.se).
How long is a work protected?
Copyright lasts for 70 years after the death of the originator. If the work is anonymous, copyright lasts for 70 years after the publication of the work.
What is protected by copyright law?
Texts such as novels and poems, as well as scholarly/scientific works (articles, monographs, theses, et c.) and textbooks are protected. Translations of a text into other languages are also protected. Magazines and newspapers are also covered by the law.
Works of art such as paintings, sculptures, drawings, pictures and photographs are also protected. All photographs are protected by the copyright law. The law distinguishes between photographic work and photographic images. The more artistic pictures are seen as photographic works. Also building plans and designed products such as furniture or plastic cups are protected.
Computer programs are also protected by the copyright law.
Databases and catalogues have a special protection which is valid for fifteen years.
Are you allowed to quote somebody else’s work?
You are allowed to quote from published works “according to custom”, and to an extent which is motivated by the context. “According to custom” means that quoting is only allowed if it is motivated by the purpose. For example, you can be permitted to quote from a work when you are writing a review, or an academic text. The originator should always be mentioned when his/her work is used.
Copyright and images
As stated above all types of illustrations, such as photographs, charts, tables, etc. are protected by copyright law. Avoid copyright issues by finding out in advance how you may use an images you want to use.
Wikimedia Commons is one source of illustrations that are free to use – as long as you add information about usage rights. For each image there is, under the heading Licensing, information about which CC- or GNU-license that is applicable. For a good overview – see the short video about Creative Commons (Link at the bottom of this page).
Photographic works are free to use if
- the photographer died before 1 January 1944
- or if the photographer is unknown and the image was created before January 1st, 1944
Photographic images, such as press pictures, are free to use if created before January 1st, 1969.
A photo may be free to use according to these rules, but you must still inform your reader about its origin. This means that if the photographers name is known you have to name the photographer in the credits and also inform the reader about where you found the photo (its place of publication).
If you want to use a photograph because it represents a work of art, you must have the artist’s permission if the artist is alive. Alternatively, you should seek the copyright holder’s permission to use the photo.
Moving image – movies and video – as well as audio files
If you want to include video or audio files in your essay, the same rules apply in principle. You must always inform your reader about the source, ie the author/creator of the work and from where you downloaded the file. And if it’s not very clear that you are free to use the material, you have to ask for permission.
Always look for a CC-license as it gives full information about how you may use the work.
YouTube is a search service where you can find movies that you may use freely. Filter the phrases with the phrase ”creative commons”. And, as always, give a clear reference to the source.
Tables and diagrams
You can quote data contained in tables and charts, but it may be that the actual table or chart in the form it is published (for example in a scientific article) is protected and can not therefore be cited in its entirety. One possibility is that you turn the table into a chart. If you find several tables that you want to quote, you can – in some cases – create a new table where you collect all data from the different tables.
When you convert a table to a chart (or vice versa) and when you create your own table from data collected from (several) other tables that you found while gathering information, you will create a whole new illustration as well as new knowledge.
Table 1 in the review article ”International travels and fever screening during epidemics.” By Bitar D, Goubar A and Desenclos JC. published in Euro Surveillance (2009; 14 (6): pii = 19115). contains an excellent example of how to create your own table based on data from multiple sources. Notice how the authors use the first column to specify from which source the data is retrieved.
Copyright or contract?
As a student, you should find out what rights and obligations you have. It can be easier if you ask a librarian, for example. You are not expected to know everything as a new student.
Copyright law gives you certain rights and obligations.
The agreements between the university and Bonus Copyright Access define in detail how much you can copy of different types of texts.
In addition, there are the rights and obligations that the library has agreed with the publishers.
The rules for how you can use and show materials (texts and illustrations) if they are only made available in a learning platform where you have to log in is often different from the rules for what is allowed if your text is published in an open archive or on a website, one that anyone can access. Usually, there are less strict rules for things that are only published on a course web site that is password protected.
Are you allowed to make copies?
You have the right to make single copies for private use of works that have been made public. Copying is only permitted for limited parts of books or other literary works.
You are not allowed to make copies of computer programs and databases – unless you have permission from the rightsholders.
What happens if you violate the copyright law?
A person who violates the copyright law can be liable to pay damages. If you violate another person’s (copyright holder’s) copyright intentionally, you can be sentenced to a fine or to prison.
Copyright and the Internet
Copyright also comprises documents that are published on the Internet. This means that the copyright law regulates how you may use Internet documents, regardless of how you have access to them.
When a computer user copies and permanently stores a work that is protected by copyright, it is considered as production of a copy. Multiplying a document on the Internet therefore requires permission from the copyright owner. The automatic (temporary) copy that many computer programs produce when you read a document on the Internet is not considered to be a reproduction.
An Internet user has the right to make a copy of an Internet document, without the permission of the copyright owner, on condition that the copy is only intended for personal use, or a small circle of family and friends. The copy may not be used for other purposes. This exception does not apply to computer programs (They may not be copied.).
The right to quote makes it possible to quote from a copyright protected document on the Internet, provided that it is done according to custom, and only to an extent that is motivated by the purpose. The source must be stated correctly and the quote must not be too long. However, you may not use for example a quote from a work of fiction in an advertisement, or to embellish your own work.
Copyright and full text resources
Copyright also covers those resources which are available in full text from the library web site. The regulations that apply to the resources the university library subscribes to are specified in the license agreements. Generally speaking, these rules can be summarized according to the following:
“This service includes licensed data only intended for use in scientific work, research, education and for personal use. To alter, make compilations, copy system- or software, resell, redistribute, publish or republish data is not permitted.”
Tips for further reading
Copyright is regulated in the Act on Copyright in Literary and Artistic Works (SFS 1960:729)
You can find out more at PRV:s web site. For more specific questions you can also turn to the individual organizations (List at PRV swedish page) The organisations will answer questions within their fields of interest, e.g. architecture, pictures, computer games, film, etc. You will also find some information on their web sites.
Creative Commons is a type of open license that you can use to specify how you want other people to be able to use your work (your text, picture or web site for example). There are six different Creative Commons licenses which are based on combinations of four different terms: Attribution, NonCommercial, NoDerivs and ShareAlike.
All CC-licenses contain the term Attribution which means that people who use your work must state you as the originator. If you choose the term NonCommercial, others may use your work, except for commercial purposes. The term NoDerivs means your work may not be altered, only distributed or copied in its original form. The fourth term ShareAlike means others have the right to alter your work and redistribute it, if they in turn use the same CC-license for the new work.
Tips for further reading
By answering the questions in the License Chooser you can find out which license suits you best, and read more about what the different CC-licenses mean.
There is of course a lot of information on the Creative Commons web site creativecommons.org On their Swedish site creativecommons.se you find the license texts in Swedish, and information on how Creative Commons relates to Swedish law (in Swedish).
See a short (3:00) video about Creative Commons: