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7 Online Copyright Myths

Possunt quia posse videntur.
(Latin: They can because they think they can.)

One of the most misunderstood issues online has to do with copyright. Both with email and website content copyright issues. For some reason, as with many things online, there is this incorrect perception that anything goes or that the entire online world is “public domain.”

Many are finding out the hard way that when it comes to protecting creative collateral, copyright is the law. And, copyright laws can and are being enforced online.

No, I am not an attorney. Nor do I play one on T.V.

But I can help you avoid potential problems based on guiding clients for over a decade about the issues involved in using other’s work. Hopefully, this effort will help you not to find out the hard way that copyright is alive and well online.

Questions and Answers About Online Copyright

I can right-click, save anything online and use it how I wish.

This is a perfect example of just because you can doesn’t mean you do. Those graphics or files were created by someone out there. They legally attained the copyright upon that file’s creation.

There is no changing that. Without their specific (preferably written) permission to use that file or graphic, you have no right to take it and use it as you please.

There is no exception to this rule. Always ask a site owner before you illegally swipe anything off their site to display your website, social media, or email blasts.

As long as I note the author’s name, I can use their site’s content on my site.

Although you are being nice and giving credit where credit is due, you still need to ask the author’s permission to use their work.

The author may not want their information posted anywhere off their own site, or they may disapprove of your site as a venue for their information. That is their choice to make, not yours.

Just because you choose to give credit doesn’t permit you to use another creator’s collateral. Always ask a site owner if you can use their content before you put it on your site.

I can link to graphics on other sites so that they display on my site.

Okay, maybe you didn’t actually download the graphic and put it on your server, but if you display someone’s work on your site without their permission, the bottom line is still the same.

And, to make things worse, you are using their server’s resources to display their files on your site. Not a good look.

I can display pages from other websites within frames on my site.

No, you cannot. It makes sense that website owners prohibit their site pages from being framed within another site because it gives the impression that the other site created the information.

Many times folks don’t realize the implications and innocently do this. They don’t want to send site visitors off their site for the information they want to provide. Others do so intentionally to give the impression it is content they created.

If you discover content you want to bring to your visitor’s attention, write a post about the topic. Then, within your commentary, you create a link to the information you like and ensure a new window opens when clicked on. This ensures that your site is still available to your site visitors.

If I only quote a portion of other site’s content and link to them, I do not need their permission.

Online is about building relationships and trust. To always err on the side of courtesy will help you to do just that. But, of course, it would behoove you to have permission to do so.

Using only select portions of text allows you to give the wrong impression about the author’s overall content. This can be misleading when not in context.

If you want to quote any written work in whole or part, ask permission and link to them. That’s how it is done.

If I pay someone to create graphics for my website, I own the copyright to those graphics.

Not necessarily. Unless your agreement with the graphic artist explicitly states that upon your payment, all of their rights are then transferred to you in whole, you most likely only have an exclusive license to use those graphics. In addition, purchasing the full copyright will cost you much more than simple exclusivity.

Email is not copyright protected once it is sent.

Email is a written work that, once created, is copyright protected by the author. This means you cannot post publicly an email sent to you privately. You cannot post private emails to your site, to message boards, or to your blog without the author’s specific permission to do so.

Because an email was sent to you as a private communication does not mean you then own it and do what you like. In addition, an email that is posted to a group of people on a mailing list, social media, or newsgroup does not make the email available for reposting, copying, or any other use.

“Sharing” in social media is different in that it clearly displays the original poster’s information and the person who shared the post. To avoid using the built-in share feature, so works appear as your own is not appropriate.

What’s the bottom line with online copyright?

Courtesy. It’s as simple as that.

Don’t assume that you can use, repost or take anything you find online simply because you can. Instead, be a courteous Netizen and always ask first.

Seek out the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) page and policy statement on your ISP and hosting provider’s websites. Take some time to read that information, make yourself aware of your rights, and not infringe on others.

The main resource for all the legal mumbo-jumbo on online copyright and the DMCA is on the Government’s site @ https://www.copyright.gov/.

Again, I am not an attorney, nor am I providing legal advice. However, I hope I’ve informed you of some of the issues that need to be seriously considered by all who are online, whether they are creating their own or using other’s creative or written works.

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