Copyright and the Internet

The basic rule

The basic rule of copyright is if you create it, the copyright is by default, yours. When you post something on the internet, this rule generally still applies. So, if someone were to steal your work and pass it off as something they did or if they try to make money from something you created and then posted, you can take steps to claim your work and make them take it down – broadly speaking.

What is Fair Use?

Fair use is when you take copyrighted material and comment on it or make a parody of it. This kind of use is permitted without having to acquire permission from the copyright holder/creator. For example, quoting or summarizing books, music, articles, referencing medical journals, etc, are all examples of fair use. Simply put -Fair use is borrowing bits and pieces from the original material or making a parody out of the original material but not copying it entirely.

Posting Photos and Videos on Social Media

Did you know that if you post a photo, a poem, a video to social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., while you still own the original copyright, you have also granted the social media outlets a license to reuse the photos, the poems, the videos to use for their own purposes?

This does not mean that people can take these things from Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and use it for their own purposes. You still own the copyright and so you can take legal action against anyone who tries to do this. However, you should always be aware that when you add these things to social media, you have also then granted them the right to reuse it.

Google Image Search

Google image search is a great tool that you can use for visualizing what it is you are searching for. However, those images are under copyright by the original creator. This means, as tempting as it might be to copy and paste that perfect image you found into your own newsletter or use it for a promotional piece, you will want to think twice. Google image search is not a repository of public domain images or copyright-free, therefore, you will want to assume that any image you come across is protected by copyright.

Copyright Tips and Best Practices

  1. Only use images, text or other copyrighted material that have a Creative Commons (CC) license. You will also want to make sure to read the terms of service as not all Creative Commons licenses are the same and may come with additional terms.
  2. Purchase your images from stock photo sites.
  3. If you found the perfect image and it’s not available on a stock photo site for you to purchase, you can always find the original owner and get permission for use.

Creative Commons: Where Free is Not Actually Free

Copyright and the Creative Commons License

In today’s world it is not uncommon for photographers, graphic artists and folks in other fields to submit work to the community that can be freely used in other projects. I’m sure you’ve heard of sites like Wikimedia and Morguefile (just to name a couple) that have photos listed for use under the Creative Commons license.

A Creative Commons (CC) License is only one of the public copyright licenses that exist today. A CC license is one that enables free distribution of work submitted by an author who wants to give permission to the community to use the work they have created.

At first glance, a CC license seems to mean “free” as in, you can freely edit and distribute the work in any manner you wish. However, each author can set limits or stipulations on how their work can be used. For instance, some authors prohibit commercial use of their work. This means, people can not use the work to help them make money — by either including it in a product that will be sold or something that helps them sell their products. Other authors will give you mostly free domain to use their work. However, they want credit for it. So, if you do happen to use their photograph, graphic design element, etc. they want their name on it somewhere for credit.

Sometimes the stipulations that authors place on their work is very transparent and easy to follow. Sometimes, the stipulations are vague. In other instances, people can forget to look at the requirements or ignore them altogether. The lines can get blurred and that’s where the trouble can start. For instance, just recently Festival delle Resistenze 2016 in Italy was sued for using a photo found on Wikimedia of one of the people who presented at the festival. The photo was taken by a local photographer and shared on Wikimedia under the CC license with the stipulation that credit would need to be given to the photographer in exchange for use of the photo. The festival took the photo and used it in marketing materials to promote the presenter but did not credit the photographer. From that mistake a lawsuit was born.

Knowing how and when to use CC licensed work can be quite an ordeal!

Our clients have the ease-of-mind in knowing that when they ask us to create a banner ad or other graphic materials, we have access to a full stock photo library that we can use without stipulation. We are either the authors of the content we use or we pay a license fee for use. We take copyright very seriously for the safety of our clients.

Learn More About Copyright: