Copyright: Keeping Your Site Out of Trouble

CopyrightThere’s no shortage of content available online. Some you can put on your website, some you can’t, and the difference between the two may seem slight at times, but it’s all that stands between you and a world of legal or copyright trouble. That’s not a fun world to live in.

For website owners, getting that “cease and desist” letter (or worse, notice of a lawsuit for Copyright Infringement) is right up there with getting a letter from the IRS. You may not have meant to do something wrong, but someone somewhere thinks you’re sharing content from them and chances are, you’ll be paying for it. It’s much easier to simply use caution when selecting images or copy for your site.

What’s the Big Deal?

For starters, do you have an extra $25k lying around? (Hint: check the couch cushions). Probably not. But that’s about how much you’re looking at in fines if you get caught using an image that wasn’t supposed to be shared—not to mention the legal fees and damages. Copyright Infringement is not cheap!

So What Can I Use?

It all depends on how much you want to spend on content. If you’re willing to pay, there’s all sorts of content out there you can license for your site. If you’re looking for something free (and let’s face it, that’s most of us), things get a little trickier… but free content is out there. And keeping out of trouble comes down to one phrase:

If You Didn’t Make It… You Better Research It

Anything you create yourself is yours to do with as you please (so the simplest thing for your website is to just create your own material). And anything you create and post online, or “express in a tangible medium” as the kids say, is automatically copyrighted even if you don’t include the copyright symbol. You made it. It’s yours. No one else’s.

Which means that anything anyone else creates and posts is theirs and you sharing or using it would be copyright infringement.

Now, some people don’t mind sharing. You can find their materials on all sorts of creative commons sites such as:

  • Pixabay
  • Unsplash
  • Pexels
  • Wikipedia Commons
  • Stock Free Images

You can also run a search for images, music, or other media that’s within the public domain. And if you have a question about an image, run a Google reverse image search and you can easily track down the creator or source.

But Some People DON’T Like Sharing

We have this idea sometimes that the big, big companies don’t really care about us smaller websites on the edges of the internet. That would be false. We also have this idea that the big, big companies are too big to really notice what us smaller websites are doing. That’s also false.

As copyright infringement grows, so does the technology used to spot it. Many businesses now use automated software to scour the web looking for their stolen content. Software doesn’t care if you’re Amazon or a free Angelfire website from 1996, if it spots what it’s looking for, you’re gonna get a letter.

You don’t want a letter.

What About Fair Use?

Fair question (see what I did there?). Fair use does allow for the reposting of some content, but it’s very specific as to how it’s posted, where it’s posted, and how much is posted. Be sure and study up on Fair Use before employing it as a defense.

And of course, one step that often helps is making sure to give the creators attribution to anything posted. Link to their site, give their full name and the source, make it as clear as possible where the content originated and that it is not something you created.

“The right to be attributed as an author of a work is not merely a copyright, it is every author’s basic human right,” writes author Kalyan C. Kankanala.

Creators, you see, generally want to protect their creations. So if your creation involves using pieces of their creations, be very very careful that you’re using them correctly.

Questions? Ready to Get Started?

If you have questions or would like to get started, please give us a call at (312) 834-7787 or visit our website to request a free quote and consultation.