People who take content from others and place it on their websites without first asking permission of the author or copyright owner risk being sued for copyright infringement. Similarly, they must ask permission to use certain symbols, such as trademarks, or face being held liable for trademark infringement. If you don’t want to fall in with this crowd, you simply need to follow a few steps to make sure you are in compliance with the laws and know your way around collecting other people’s copy and images to enhance your own website.
Always Ask Permission
People tend to assume that once information, pictures, art, video or music content is published on the Web, it is in the public domain and therefore not protected by copyright or trademark laws. This simply is not true. Always presume that the material in which you are interested is protected, and follow that through by asking permission to use it on your website. Also keep in mind that under the law, the owner of the copyright has exclusive rights to the material. If you cite or give credit to the copyright owner or original author, artist or musician, you will still need permission from that individual to use the content on your website. To do otherwise would make you guilty of copyright infringement. You could also be found guilty of trademark infringement if you fail to get permission before using certain symbols on your website. Trademark permission is particularly important if your website content involves advertising or product sales.
Read Click-Wrap Agreements
When you want to use clipart that is labeled “copy-right free” or “royalty-free,” remember to read the terms of the agreement; don’t just click on the “Accept” button and move on to something more exciting. If you violate the agreement in any way when you use the clip art on your site, you could be sued.
Prepare for Licensing Fees
The licensing fees set forth by copyright owners can start at $50 and run into the thousands. The reason is that these fees are based on several considerations:
- the number of visits to your web page
- the number of hits on the page
- the location of the protected material on your website
- whether your website is informational or commercial
It is a good idea to research your website’s statistics, because the calculation of the licensing fee will be based on those numbers.
The Fair Use Controversy
“Fair use” is a term that applies to the limited use of protected material without the owner’s permission. This includes content such as commentary, critiques, news reporting, research or education. The courts have yet to agree on a definitive meaning for fair use. It is therefore recommended that you steer clear of any possible trouble by obtaining permission from the owner of the material before putting it up on your website.
Take Care With Linking, Inlining and Framing
To avoid legal trouble, be careful when you link to other websites. First, avoid deep linking, which is bypassing a home page, where the website owner usually has important information, in order to link to an interior page. Second, avoid framing, displaying the contents of another person’s website within the sections you’ve created in your own. The courts now say that framing falls under copyright infringement. Finally, inlining, or “mirroring,” the practice of posting full-sized images from another website onto your own, may have legal ramifications. Simply ask permission to post.
Post Disclaimers on Your Site
Disclaimers are simple statements that deny any affiliation with another company, retailer, association or website. While they do not offer complete protection from infringement, they can help to limit any damages you might face as the result of a court case. Keeping up with any changes in the laws regarding website rights allows you to operate your own website with confidence. The important thing to remember about using another person’s content is to always ask permission.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.