Copyright Infringement on the Web

Easily and readily sharing on the internet is a relatively new thing and with this evolution, many people have become confused or are simply unaware of what constitutes copyright infringement. Most people don’t intend to infringe when they take and use items they’ve found online, they are simply unaware that they are doing so. Being unaware however doesn’t negate responsibility in the eyes of the law. It’s crucial if you’re a website owner or website content creator to educate yourself on what is and isn’t copyright infringement before you begin sharing on the web.

Here are some things to take into consideration before posting that image or excerpt.

Did you create the graphic, take the photo or write the content?

Although there may be some exceptions to this, if you did and you weren’t under a Work For Hire agreement, chances are you own the copyright and are free to use it in any way you like.

Did you purchase the photo/graphic from a stock image company?

There are typically two types of licenses when it comes to stock images, royalty-free and rights-managed. Royalty free is essentially a license that allows you to use the copyrighted content multiple times. You do not own the copyright to the content, you simply have a license to use it. Rights-managed in contrast is a more tightly controlled agreement with restrictions on things such as industry, duration of use, etc. With either a royalty-free or rights-managed license, it is important to read and abide by the licensing agreement that you agreed to at purchase.

Are you using a piece of work under a Creative Commons License?

Using artistic works under a creative commons license can be a great way to find quality photos/graphics to use on your website. There are 6 different types of Creative Commons licenses and it’s important to educate yourself on what each license requirement is before using the work. You can find more information about the license types here

Attribution Is Not Enough

Giving the creator credit does not make it OK to use something you found online. You must have permission from the owner/creator of the content to use it.

Why Not Ask?

Did you find something that you’d really like to use? Why not ask the owner? The worse case scenario is that they say no. Not everyone will say yes but there are many people out there that will be glad to let you use their work and may even be flattered by it. The point, it never hurts to ask!

*Note: Any professional who works on your website should be aware of and abiding by these laws because breaking them puts your company at risk.

Here is a great infographic that explains some of the common copyright infringement myths vs facts.
Internet Copyright Infringement
Source: Copyright Infringement: Myths vs Facts from

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