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As the blogging phenomenon expands, copyright concerns become quite important. Technology makes it really easy to copy, modify and share information, whether we talk about text, images, audio or video. The problem is that the vast majority of people do not have a clear understanding of the Copyright Law, which might result in illegal and costly mistakes. Below you will find 12 Do’s and Dont’s that will clarify what you can and what you can not do as an online publisher:

DOS

1. Do use material under public domain: you are free to use any work that is in public domain. This includes federal government documents, materials produced before 1923 and materials produced before 1977 without a copyright notice.

2. Do quote something you find interesting: the Copyright Act defines that short quotations for the purpose of criticism, commentary or news reporting are considered “fair use”. Notice that the quote should involve only a small portion of the work, and it should not replicate the “heart” of the material.

3. Do use facts and ideas: Copyright Law protects the expression of facts and ideas. That is the form, combination and structure of documents and not the facts themselves. You are free to use facts and ideas reported on articles or websites.

4. Do use other materials that are not subject to copyright: apart from facts and ideas there are many other classes of materials that can not be protected under the Copyright Law. Those materials include names, familiar symbols, listings of ingredients or contents, short phrases, titles, slogans and procedures (notice that some of those materials might be protected by trademark, though).

5. Do use a company name or logo if you are talking about it: trademarks should protect a company from people trying to use its name or logo to deceive customers. If you are criticizing or analyzing a company, however, you can use its name or logo under a “nominative fair use”.

6. Do use a company name on your domain: as mentioned on the previous item you can use a company’s name as long as you are not trying to deceive people that you speak on behalf of this company or that you are related to it in any way. This right applies to domain names. Someone could create a website to complain about a company, say Microsoft, and use a domain name that contains the name of this company, say microsoftsucks.com.

DON’TS

7. Don’t assume that if you credit the author there is no copyright infringement: a lot of people wrongly think that if they credit the author of an article or image they are not violating the copyright law. You can only use copyrighted material if you have explicit permission from the author to do so (or if you make fair use of it, as explained before).

8. Don’t copy material just because it does not show a copyright message: the Copyright Law required a copyright notice to protect works until 1977. In 1978, however, the law changed and abolished the requirement for copyright notice. This means that every published work (be it on paper or digital media) automatically gets copyright protection, whether expressed with a notice or not.

9. Don’t equate Creative Commons with “free for grab”: while Creative Commons licenses are less restrictive then standard copyright they should not be interpreted a “free for grab”. In order to understand what you can or can not do with Creative Commons material you should check what kind of license it is using. Certain licenses will require you to credit the original author, while others will require that you release any modifications of the document under the same license.

10. Don’t copy material just because you are not making a commercial use: while making commercial use of copyrighted material might make it easier for the author to claim damages against you the commercial use per se is not a requirement for copyright infringement. Even if you are not making a commercial use of the material you are still infringing the law if you do not have a permission from the author.

11. Don’t assume that if you remove the copyrighted material you will be out of trouble: a lot of people copy images and text around the Internet thinking that in the worst of the cases they will receive a take down notice from the author and remove the material from the website. The removal of the copyrighted material will not remove the copyright infringement at all. Should the author decide to go after you in count you will be in trouble all the same.

12. Don’t copy material just because you can’t find a copyright holder: the fact that a copyright holder can not be identified does not imply that the material can be freely copied. Similarly if you locate the copyright holder, email him asking permission and receive no answer back you would still be infringing the law if you use the material.

This article was not written by a lawyer and it does not intend to constitute legal advice.


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About the author 

Daniel

Daniel Scocco is a programmer and entrepreneur located in São Paulo, Brazil. His first company, Online Profits, builds and manages websites in different niches. His second company, Kubic, specializes in developing mobile apps for the iOS and Android platforms.

  1. Very useful information. I used to pick news stories from news sites and post them on my blog for content, but now I will need to remove them before someone approaches me.

    Thanks.

  2. @ Mike,

    As far is I know copywrites least at least 10 years before they exeed, but if everything is country based. Maybe he didn’t had any copywrites at all. In belgium by example is everything you make automaticly copywrited. Sow have a deep look in de USA law

    grtz

  3. Hi guys,

    I’m looking for some advice and would be grateful for any help.

    Back in 1999, I purchased an online marketing system known the “Cookie Cutter” marketing system created in America by a guy named Gary White.

    Needless to say the system didn’t last very long and Gary White closed down his business and his website.

    I want to resurrect and tweak the system and promote it online via my own website and my own business name.

    As Gary White no longer promotes this system and it does not exist on the Internet, am I infringing any copyright laws?

    Thanks for any help.
    Mike

  4. The funny thing is that in most countries in the bureaucratic EU, they do not have a copyright office!

    Go figure, the generally less bureaucratic USA has a copyright office, but the UK and most of Europe does not!

  5. Wow! thanks for the reminder and warning to my blog, i didn’t know that till i read this post, thanks for the post, now i understand, and im sorry to copy your post, i just want to share it with people on my blog.

  6. Are original articles by bloggers protected by copyright? My main site houses legal papers on cases we follow, however on the blog part I do articles, show a copyright symbol by my name and then allow discussions of the articles. Lately large portions like pages at a time appear on some celebrity site called TMZ, as well as pages and pages of the posters comments verbatim with no link and no change in the verbage of my articles or the posters changed. Do my posters or I have copyright protection? It is NOT TMZ doing this but posters on TMZ forums.

    Thanks,

    Rose

  7. I am trying to write a book about our church’s beginnings. But everywhere I turn someone says I need permission. I need images
    depicting the 1940’s but can I simply use web images of hand pumps, old buildings, etc. without permission? Also, when I tell of the influence of ancestors of the members, who do I see to get permission to use their names and facts? This is not a book for profit, but it is really becoming a confusing venture. Any tips are appreciated. Helen

  8. With the millions of blogs spewing out in the Internet every hour, it is nearly impossible to go after everyone who copies a text or image. The best thing we can do is to acknowledge the original source or the secondary source where the material was taken out either in toto or partly. Acknowledge of the original author should be enough. If an author would go after a person who copies his work, he will be spending doing this thing all his life and he would regret that he should be doing something else more important rather than pursuing the copycats.

  9. Copyright is pretty simple and straight forward. Everyone makes it more complicated and mysterious than is necessary.

    Just know fair use terms and you are OK. Also, like anything being legalistic, it has to do with money. If you are not profiting form the use…then you are probably OK.

  10. A couple things:

    – the sources of where this information was found might be helpful.

    – dont’s should be don’ts.

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