You’ve finally got your company’s website up and running. But a lack of talent or interest at the company often means you have trouble finding content to keep readers interested and coming back.
WHAT IF YOU FIND A GREAT ARTICLE ON ANOTHER WEBSITE ABOUT HOW SMALL BUSINESSES IN YOUR INDUSTRY WILL LOOK IN FIVE YEARS? CAN YOU USE IT? WHAT ABOUT IMAGES ON THE INTERNET? CAN YOU COPY AND PASTE THEM IN YOUR SITE?
Probably not. The rule of thumb here is to assume all content on the Internet is protected by copyright law – even if there is no © symbol. That means if you copy or “borrow” it, you’re likely to be violating the law. The best solution to this problem is to double-check the rights before using any third-party content.
WHAT IS NEEDED FOR COPYRIGHT PROTECTION?
The work must be original, although it doesn’t have to be the only one of its kind. For example, there are probably several articles speculating on the future of your industry.
The work must be in tangible form, not just an idea. Some examples are articles, essays, instructional material, directories, charts, photos, cartoons and drawings.
The work must be in a protected “category”, which runs the gamut from literary works to motion pictures. Assuming the work falls into a protected category, what aspects are protected? The right to reproduce (copy, transcribe or imitate the work); the right to distribute the material publicly by selling, renting, leasing or lending it; the right to modify the work, and the right to display the work to the public.
If you’re caught infringing, it can be costly. Several remedies are available to the accuser. You can be ordered to stop using the material, to destroy infringing copies, and to pay damages.
First, consider how you’re going to use the material. Limited permission may be given right at the website or, in the case of written material, at the end of the article and at the beginning of books. Here’s a typical example:
“Alpha PLC grants you a limited license to access and make personal use of this site and not to download (other than page caching) or modify it, or any portion of it, except with express written consent of Alpha PLC. This license does not include any resale or commercial use of this site or its contents: any collection and use of any product listings, descriptions, or prices: any derivative use of this site or its contents: any downloading or copying of account information for the benefit of another merchant: or any use of data mining, robots, or similar data gathering and extraction tools.”
As you can see, borrowing content for commercial purposes is usually forbidden. And it would be hard to argue that a website set up to sell products or services isn’t commercial.
Keep in mind that only the copyright owner can grant permission to use his or her work. While it’s sometimes obvious who the owner is, other times you have to do a little detective work. In general, the creator of a work owns the copyright.
To find out if a work is registered, you can check with the Copyright Council.
BOTTOM LINE: DON’T USE ANY MATERIAL FROM ANOTHER SITE OR AUTHOR WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING THE COPYRIGHT IMPLICATIONS AND CONSULT WITH YOUR ADVISER.