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Do you remember the first time you logged on the internet? Most likely, since the moment you went online the World Wide Web, you never stopped using it until today. The World Wide Web is a resource as deep as a deep, blue ocean, or more accurately, the far and wide intergalactic space. The internet helped me and others make our schoolwork, research, career, and life in general, much more easier.
Most people immediately assume that any web content is public property. It’s easy to copy images, articles, fonts or videos off the net. But if you don’t have the permission from the owner, you are illegally stealing and this could lead you to many legal troubles.
Whether you are a blogger, a web designer, a writer or a simple internet user, it is important to understand the underlying internet copyright laws to avoid getting into legal trouble, or, to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of infringement and plagiarism.
Essentially, copyright means a set of exclusive rights granted to the owner to print, copy, reproduce or publish copyrighted works. Initially, the copyright law only applied to the copying of books. Over time copyright now covers a wide range of works, especially in the artistic and creative fields. Works that can be copyrighted include the following:
Registering a copyright gives the owner the exclusive right to control reproduction of works for a period of time, depending on jurisdiction, but more recently consists of the life of the author plus a few decades.
In the US and most countries, you do not need to do anything to copyright your material. Material placed in a fixed tangible medium is automatically copyrighted. You don’t need to register for copyright although you probably should. Register your material with the US Copyright office to enforce or strengthen your rights. After registering copyright within 90 days of publication, copyright owner can receive from ‘statutory damages’.
There are works that CAN NOT be copyrighted, including the following:
Q: All content from the internet is public domain and in turn free to use. Right?
A: Wrong. Just because content on the internet is publicly accessible doesn’t mean it’s public domain. Public domain are works where copyright has expired, typically 50 years after the author’s death. Examples are: Shakespeare’s works, the English language and some Sherlock Holmes stories.
Q: Since literary works like journals, stories and articles can be copyrighted. Does it mean your blog content can be copyrighted, as well?
A: Your blog content can be stolen from you. Easily. So don’t post anything online that may contain valuable information, something you can’t afford to be stolen.
Having your blog post reposted by someone else is a good thing, it can increase web traffic to your site. According to Fair Use, copyright can be infringed to a degree for strict application of the copyright law may impede the production and distribution of the work to the public.
Q: Is it copyright infringement if I have the same blog title as another blogger?
A: Generally, titles are not protected by copyright.
Q: I want to use some old photos for my site, but I can’t locate the copyright holder. What can I do?
A: This is a case of an orphan work. First of all, check with the US Copyright Office if the photos have been registered. If you’ve exhausted all means to locate the copyright owner but still haven’t found them, document your search for the copyright holder. Recount the steps in the search process to show due diligence of your search. If the owner still takes claim of copyright infringement, damages are likely to be limited. It will not include attorney’s fees, making it more troubling for the owner to pursue the claim. (Medical Library Association)
Q: I downloaded something free photos and fonts from the internet. Can I use it at whim?
A: Freeware doesn’t exactly mean public domain. Ownership of the work still remains from the creator of the work. Know and comply with the owner’s terms and conditions. You may contact the owner to get their permission to use their work, whether for personal use, school use or commercial use.
Copyright expires after a period of time. Copyright lasts at least the life of the author plus 5 decades after his or her death.
According to the Berne Convention (Copyright Service) the following duration period applies:
Once the copyright period expires, the work now falls into public domain and can now be used by everyone freely. You cannot claim an expired copyrighted work, which means you can use it freely (just as everyone else) and you cannot limit others from using the work.
For an infringement to occur, the following elements must be present:
Penalties for infringement include the following:
So you caught someone violating your copyright. What do you do next? First, do not let all that anger go into your head. Assume that the person who infringed just made an honest mistake.
If someone steals your blog post into their blog without your even acknowledging you, one can invoke the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Known as ‘notice and take down’, you can notify the person to stop using your work. If they do not, contact their ISP to know their host and voice your complaint about their users stealing your content. The host will then take action and shut down the person’s blog or site without question.
If you find infringement and violation of copyright laws and haven’t registered your work yet, it’s okay. You can simply register your work to the US Copyright Office and then file suit. However, if infringement happens before registration, you cannot receive compensation for ‘statutory damages’. You will only get an injunction–or a court order to stop violator from using your work.
***Most of these copyright laws are from the US, and the laws on copyright may vary from one country to another. Check your own copyright laws for more enlightenment. It’s important to be educated with laws to not only get yourself from any unwanted trouble; but also to protect yourself from any violations.
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Rachel Arandilla is a curious subject -- she appreciates things that are quirky & clever. She loves spontaneity and adventure. She is a carefree soul, has a deep love for travel, culture and languages. And she's beginning to wonder she keeps on referring to herself in third person perspective.