Internet Copyright Law: Steal This Post!

This post explains the basics of internet copyright law and how it applies to you. Of course, internet copyright law isn’t much different from other copyright law except that, because it is so easy to copy things on the internet, it is harder to enforce.

Are You A Criminal?

Have you ever worried about whether you are breaking internet copyright law when you use an image you found on the web?

Chances are, and please don’t get mad at me, you probably are breaking internet copyright law if you use images or text without at least giving credit to the photographer or citing the author.

There are two basic ways to protect your online work.

You’ve probably heard of copyrights, but maybe you haven’t given them a lot of thought.

What Is A Copyright?

Copyright, according to wikipedia, is a legal concept, enacted by most governments, giving the creator of an original work exclusive rights to it, usually for a limited time. Generally, it is “the right to copy”, but also gives the copyright holder the right to be credited for the work, to determine who may adapt the work to other forms, who may perform the work, who may financially benefit from it, and other related rights.

The other way to protect your work online is called a creative commons license.

What Is A Creative Commons License?

Again according to Wikipedia, a Creative Commons license is one of several public copyright licenses that allow the distribution of copyrighted works. A Creative Commons license is used when an author wants to give people the right to share, use, and even build upon a work that they have created. CC provides an author flexibility (for example, you might choose to allow only non-commercial uses of their own work) and protects the people who use or redistribute an authors work, so they don’t have to worry about copyright infringement, as long as they abide by the conditions the author has specified.

What’s The Difference, Really?

Internet copyright law is an extension of laws that were created by the U.S. government, and other governments, in effect, to not only protect authors and other creative types, but also to provide a means of limiting access and use of information. Typically, if you infringe on an internet copyright law, you can be sued.

The goal of creative commons licenses, on the other hand, is to figure out ways to share information and images. Creative commons licenses are a project of Creative Commons, a U.S. nonprofit founded in 2001. One of the goals of creative commons licenses is to protect people from being sued for infringement of internet copyright law.

Creative commons licenses grew as a solution to the rise of the internet because, of course, it is easy to both publish and “steal” on the internet.

A key difference between the two forms of protection is that you pay to register for a copyright while a creative commons license is free.

What Can Be Protected?

Here are some things that can be protected by internet copyright law:

  • Computer programs
  • Databases
  • Blogs & newsletters
  • Text
  • Photographs
  • Artwork
  • Music
  • Sounds
  • Logos

What Is Not Protected?

The following items are not protected by copyright:

  • Domain names
  • Names of bands
  • Names, titles, slogans or short phrases (for example, you cannot have a star named after you and copyright it. Disappointed?)
  • Sightings, such as of Elvis (I know, it sounds crazy but it’s true!)

Why Should You Care?

There’s no polite way to put this: if you use an image or text, especially for commercial purposes, it is often stealing.

People want credit and/or money for the work they do.

Anything listed above under “What can be protected?” can be, and most likely is, illegal to use–especially without attribution.

What Can I Do?

As bloggers and content marketers, I know you are looking for great images to spark interest in your posts.

My solution is to take photos all the time and try to use my own photos and images as often as possible. This makes it very simple!

If I have to use other people’s images I search Google using search times like free image yo-yo. The images are often not that professional, so then I doctor them up at fotoflexer to make them look good.

Of course you should always quote text or site sources. I find an easy way to do that is link directly to the material I am using.

Follow this link for a comprehensive resource list of free images.

To Copyright Or License, That Is The Question

As for you, how do you protect your work, if at all? Are you more interested in limiting how people use your work or figuring out how to share it?


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