How often have you seen a text, an image, or a video on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), or TikTok with the acronym “CTTO” or “credits to the owner” attached to it? This may sound like they are giving credit where credit is due, but is that really what’s happening, or is there a proper way to do it?

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What is CTTO?

Credits to the Owner (CTTO) is a common phrase used in social media by people attempting to give credit to the original owner or content creator, whether written content, photo, video clip, or meme. However, this phrase and acronym are often used to post content under a different name without properly citing the original owner.

While sharing other people’s work on social media is generally fine, how you share it matters and determines whether it’s legal or not.

For instance, reposting on X (formerly retweeting on Twitter) and sharing on Facebook are highly encouraged because they preserve the original creator’s account in the media.

But if you download an image, save a video, or copy another person’s text without the owner’s approval, that’s where the problem is because some legal and moral rights come with it.

Why do people use CTTO?

There are different reasons why people use CTTO instead of seeking permission and approval from the rightful owner.

  • They think adding a CTTO is enough. Usually, the people using CTTO are unaware and honestly do not know it’s illegal. They just want to credit the creator because they thought the CTTO would reach whoever owns the original work.
  • They want to get the engagements and reach. Some people, social media pages, and groups deliberately download another person’s work and post it as their own to increase their engagement and reach. They know that if they just reshare or repost it, the engagements and growth will be on the original poster.
  • Asking permission can be a hassle. Another reason why people use CTTO is because they want to avoid the hassle of asking for permission and approval from the rightful owner. The problem is that no one is penalized for taking other people’s work as their own.

Now, let’s look deeper at the acronym CTTO, its legal basis, and whether it’s proper to use it.

Is adding CTTO to a copied work enough?

A crucial concept we must first understand regarding the use of CTTO is copyright. According to the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL), citing the Intellectual Property Code (RA 8293), copyright is the legal protection extended to the owner of the original work.

While copyright generally extends to literary, scientific, and artistic domains, including books, lectures, dramatic and musical compositions, and others, the common copyrightable works found in social media include photos, videos, written works like essays and texts, and even memes.

So, based on the law, the copyright belongs to the original creator of these works, and they will enjoy its protection.

If you think that the original owners should register their copyrights to enjoy the protection of the law, the straight answer is ‘No.’ According to Section 172 of the Intellectual Property Code or Republic Act No. 8293, copyrightable works are automatically protected at the moment they’re created.

If you share another person’s work with no desire for commercial gain, will CTTO be okay?

It’s important to understand that sharing another person’s original work without their approval and instead using CTTO to “cite” them is not enough, even if you don’t intend to gain money. The copyright owner has economic and moral rights over their work.

So, even if you don’t intend to profit from another person’s work, the creator has the right to attribution. This means that the original creator has the right to be identified if their work will be published or shared publicly.


What is the Fair Use Policy?

While it may appear that using any copyrighted material is prohibited unless properly attributed, there is still an exemption – the Fair Use.

The fair use concept can be applied to use copyrighted materials for commenting, criticizing, teaching, news reporting, and other purposes, even without asking permission from the owner.

Here are the factors of consideration for fair use:

  • The nature of any copyright content/work;
  • The character and purpose of use;
  • The substantiality and amount of the piece you’ll use, share or take;
  • It affects the use of your target audience or market.

This concept allows others to use copyrighted materials without permission, which is why you can see people on YouTube react and comment on other people’s videos and music, as well as create educational materials.

How to properly give credits to the owner?

Now that we have established that simply using CTTO to cite the original owner is not enough, including the legal and moral principles of the original works, let’s look at how we can properly give credit.

  • Ask for permission from the owner. You must ask for their permission and approval to use other people’s works. If they agree, add the proper attribution, like their name, organization, or website URL. But if they disagree, don’t use it and move forward.
  • Pay them if you’ll use their work for commercial purposes. An important principle regarding giving credit is that if you use another person’s work for commercial purposes, they deserve to be paid.
  • Determine the usage. Based on fair use, others can still use some copyrighted materials without express approval if they fall within its provisions. However, proper attributions are still necessary.

What if I can’t trace the owner of the work?

Using CTTO is not a free pass to take someone else’s work, even if it’s rampant in social media. It’s actually an incorrect practice that must stop. The general rule of thumb regarding giving credit is if you don’t own it, don’t use it.

However, there is an exemption. It’s also okay to ask for permission from the original owner, and if they agree, credit them properly.

Can you imagine taking a great picture, creating a stunning video, or composing a lovely song? Then, someone on the internet mindlessly takes your work, posts it on their profile, and adds CTTO as an attribution. Will it be okay with you?

Chances are, it may cause you to resent the people or organizations that took your work without your permission. So, whenever you want to copy someone else’s work and pass it as your own, stop for a while and contact the proper owners.

Will you be penalized or go to jail for using CTTO?

Using CTTO to cite the original owner is illegal, and there are potential penalties for copyright infringement for using other people’s works without their permission.

  • Imprisonment: 1 to 3 years
  • Fine: Php50,000 to Php150,000 for the first offense

Settling the issue with the original owner can still avoid these penalties. However, I’m unsure if this applies to politicians who conveniently modify copyrighted materials to insert their names on campaign jingles.

Another good defense for copyright infringement is citing fair use.

CTTO is not a magic word that takes away the right of the original creator of the work for proper credit. In fact, it’s the Internet community’s responsibility to ensure appropriate credit is given to whom it is due. It is also the creator’s discretion to let you use their work.

Have you seen people who are misusing CTTO and credits to the owner? Send them this article, so they can be informed on the proper ways to credit people who produce original work.

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