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I am writing a report for an assignment in which I have used Tikz/LaTex to make several plots, block diagrams and figures in general. Due to the hard work that has gone in to making them I do not want anyone else to just steal them willy-nilly. Which is why I placed a Copyright mark on the images in such a way that it doesn't obscure the main contents but it is impossible to take it without the copyright mark. Now this copyright itself is meaningless since I don't have a copyright license.

The report is for a course assignment and this issue is not too big of a deal for me but if it is reasonable then I would like to keep the copyright symbol in. However, the issue is I am not sure if such a thing is reasonable or not especially without a copyright license. What should I do?

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  • I think, if someone steals your figure, they are more likely guilty of plagiarism than of copyright infringement. Unless they credit you when they use it. And then wouldn't that be to your advantage: your figure is used with credit to you?
    – GEdgar
    Dec 1, 2023 at 18:02

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In the US, the copyright symbol adds no legal protection whatsoever to a copyrighted work, it simply serves as a notice to others that you hold the copyright and do not want others to infringe upon it. Generally, you hold the copyright simply by creating the work, and do not need to mark or file anything further to hold the rights. The copyright mark is fairly meaningless, but not because you don't hold the copyright - because you very likely do hold the copyright regardless of the mark.

Adding the copyright symbol would strike me as a bit overzealous - it doesn't do anything other than declare that you don't want people copying your figure. I imagine it would be pretty unlikely for someone to lift figures from your school assignment, even less likely for them to be dissuaded by the copyright symbol if they did want to, and vanishingly unlikely for you to discover infringement and actually enforce your copyright against anyone.

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  • Alright I guess it is best to remove it altogether. Thank you, for your input! Dec 1, 2023 at 15:45
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    In the United States, copyright exists as soon as an original creative work is fixed in a tangible medium, which includes bits on a disk. However, you cannot sue to enforce copyright unless you've registered your work.
    – Bob Brown
    Dec 1, 2023 at 16:23
  • And removing the symbol will not be difficult at all by someone who wants to ‘steal’ your figure. Which is wildly unlikely.
    – Jon Custer
    Dec 1, 2023 at 16:54
  • This answer is opinion-based and needs to be improved to add sources and especially with regard to addressing the comment by @BobBrown. Dec 2, 2023 at 0:50
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You can do that, of course, but most places these days it isn't necessary. Creative things published by an individual (or group) are automatically copyrighted in much of the world due to international agreements. See the Berne Convention for example.

Some places you need to register copyrights with the government as was generally true in the past.


Note that the wording suggests that things are copyrighted at creation ("fixed in some medium"), if they aren't published then it is sort of moot (my reading).

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In most jurisdictions, your work is copyrighted whether or not you place a mark by it. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_symbol and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berne_Convention and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TRIPS_Agreement

If your jurisdiction requires a mark or license to copyright works, you'll need the advice of someone familiar with the legal system in your jurisdiction. My impression from these Wikipedia articles would be that the only places that might be an issue would be Eritrea, Kosovo, Marshall Islands, Palau, and Palestine, though you'd want to check to be sure (and certainly it's possible that these places do not require a copyright mark, either, they just have not joined the major world treaties that ensure this).

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You could upload your figures to Figshare for which you can choose the sharing / reuse license. And if you choose to make them public, whoever uses them can cite the figshare upload.

Side note: it’s also a good idea to do this prior to uploading a manuscript to certain publishers as it allows you to keep ownership of your figures regardless of the journal’s reuse license.

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