Possunt quia posse videntur.
(Latin: They can because they think they can.)
As of late , I am spending way too much time chasing down those who infringe on my copyrights. So I thought it was time for a refresher!
One of the most misunderstood issues online has to do with copyright. Both with email and Web site 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 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 17 years about the issues involved in using others work. Hopefully, this effort will help you from finding out the hard way that copyright is alive and well online.
Not paying attention to these issues can cause your Web Host to shutdown your site due to a DMCA complaint (more on that later) by the original owner of the copyright protected information you chose to use without permission.
- ?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. Without their specific permission to use that file or graphic, you have no right to just 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 on yours.
- ?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 post their work on your site. The author may not want their information posted anywhere off their own site or they many not approve 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 give you permission. 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.
O.K., maybe you didn’t actually download the graphic and put it on your server, but if you are displaying someone’s work on your site without their permission the bottom line is still the same. And, you are using their server’s resources to display their files on your site — not something you want to get caught doing!
- ?I can display pages from other Web sites within frames on my site.
Many site 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 innocently do this so they don’t have to send site visitors off their site for information they want to provide. Others do so to precisely give the impression it is content they created. A better option is to link to the information you like and create a new window to open when doing so to ensure 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.
Again, it would behoove you to have permission to do so. Using only portions allows you to possibly give the wrong impression about the author’s overall content and this can be misleading at best. If you want to quote any written work in whole or part it would be wise and courteous to ask permission to do so.
- ?If I pay someone to create graphics for my Web site, 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 exclusive license to use those graphics. In addition, to purchase the full copyright will cost you a much more than simple exclusivity!
The fact is that the moment anything is created whether it be written or drawn, the creator owns the copyright – that’s the law. Copyright can only be transferred in a written legally binding agreement signed by the creator of the work stating they are transferring their rights to you. Saying you own it because you paid for it doesn’t make it legal fact.
- ?E-mail is not copyright protected once it is sent.
E-mail is a written work that once created is copyright protected by the author. This means you cannot post publicly an email that was 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.
Just because an email was sent to you as a private communication does not mean you then own it and can do with it what you like. (Not only from a legal viewpoint, but what type of person does this?) In addition, email that is posted to a group of people, on a mailing list or Newsgroup does not make the email available for reposting, copying, or any other use – not without the express and written consent of the author.
What’s the bottom line with online copyright?
Courtesy! Don’t assume that you can use, repost or take anything you find online simply because you can. Be a courteous Netizen and always ask first!
What do you do if you are a victim of a graphic or content thief?
You can ask nicely that they remove your information and/or graphics first. If your requests are ignored and no action is taken, which is more common than not, you then need to file a formal DMCA complaint with their Hosting company.
How do you find out where they are hosted?
Go to any domain registrar and look for the WHOIS link. Then search their domain and you will find all their contact information as well as their listed Name Servers. The Name Servers will show where the site is hosted.
Then, seek out the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) page and policy statement on the ISP or hosting provide Web sites of the offender to find out how they handle complaints and reports in regard to copyright abuse. Take the time to read that information and make sure you follow their policy to the “T”. Submitting formal DMCA complaints have to be in a certain format containing explicit verbiage. The main resource for all the legal mumbo jumbo on online copyright and the DMCA is on the Governments site @ https://www.copyright.gov.
Again, I am not an attorney nor am I providing legal advice. 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 others creative or written works.