As a small business owner, you company’s website will soon become a driving force behind your success. The vast majority of today’s consumers are internet savvy, and they use the internet as a tool to research businesses and products. This is great news if you plan to build a website for your company, but there are some rules you will have to follow during the site building process. Building a website can be difficult, and there will be times when you may be tempted to use another site’s material. The article below will answer this age old question – “Is it okay to copy material from a website?”
Simply put, the answer to the question above is no, unless you receive permission from the material’s creator or owner. Copying another website’s material is a violation of copyright laws, and if the owner of the material finds out, he or she will more than likely take you to court. Contrary to popular belief, material posted on a website does not need to exhibit the traditional copyright notice because as soon as the material is created, the author can immediately claim ownership. This is important to understand, and the contents of a website are no different the contents of a written publication such as book or newspaper.
Important Copyright Laws
It is important to note that the internet is developing faster than the laws that attempt to govern it. For this reason, it is important for you to understand copyright laws before you build your company’s website. Many people assume that material on the internet is not covered by copyright laws, but in reality, this material is covered by the same laws that govern written material. In previous years, if an author or content creator wanted to copyright his or her material, the individual faced the formalities of registration and copyright notice. However, in recent times, material is protected by copyright laws if it satisfies the three elements below.
- The material is fixed in a tangible medium (written on a website or in a book).
- The material is creative.
- The material is original.
Legally, copyright laws may allow the “fair use” of small parts of copyrighted works without the author’s consent. The following actions are typically protected under “fair use” laws.
- Using another person’s material for criticism purposes (ex: criticizing a poem or essay)
- Compiling a news report with another person’s information or statistical research
- Using the material to instruct a class (as long as the material is not passed off as your own)
- Utilizing another person’s data or information to perform research
Fair use laws allow for the use of copyrighted material in the instances above, but credit for the material must always be given to the original author or creator.
One of the most important laws regarding copyright infringement was passed in 1998. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act states that internet material is protected by U.S. copyright laws. This act does state there will be exceptions. For example, internet service providers (such as AT&T or Time Warner Cable) cannot be held responsible for the copyrighted material that passes through their computers. If the service provider removes the infringement material immediately, they cannot be held liable.
Never Use Another Site’s Material
In short, it is best to avoid using another website’s material. If you do, you will more than likely be notified by the creator, and a request will be made for you to remove the material. If you still refuse to remove the material, the owner or creator of the content will probably take legal action. This can be devastating for a business owner, and if you are found guilty of copyright infringement, you may be ordered to pay enormous sums of money. This prospect may seem intimidating at first, but by taking the time to create your own unique content, you can prevent this from happening to you.
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.