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How do I ensure I do not infringe on Copyright?

In this article we will look at how we can make sure we do not violate another parties copyright while working on the web. There is so much information and resources out there it can be tempting to take short cuts to keep up to date. Copyright notices may not be easily found and so it might be tempting to just use the material you have found. Lets take a look at some of the best ways to avoid getting in trouble for violating another persons copyright rights.

None of the articles in this series are legal advice but rather a compilation of information and experience I have gathered over the years. If after reading any of these articles you feel you have a case please seek legal advice from a solicitor before proceeding.

How to Determine if Copyright Applies to a Piece of work.

Unless there is a notice present stating that the work is being produced under another licencing arrangement such as creative commons you should always assume that the work is copyright right from the word go. ALWAYS assume that what you looking at on the web is copyright until you find confirmation saying otherwise.

Then there is notice that may say they are copyright 2010 but it no longer 2010 so its right to use right? NO. In most case that copyright extends till 50 years after the death of the author. Photos are copyright for 25 years after they are taken and video is 50 years. The fact that they even have a copyright notice regardless of the date on it tells you this content is copyright so we would now need to look at acquiring permission to use it.

If no notice can be found it is best to contact the original author directly. If the original author is unknown then contact the person or company that has produced the work and ask them whom to contact for permission to use that piece or work.

If a piece of work was produced before 1989 when the Berne treaty came into effect the work had to be registered to receive protection. To check for protection a search can be conducted with the Copyright office of the country it was produced in.

If in doubt you should always seek the permission of the creator or failing that you should seek legal council prior to reproducing or using other work that may or may not be under copyright protection.


How do I find the Copyright Holder?

The first thing you should do is search the site on which you found the information looking for any contact information. Start with the copyright notice. If an email is available in the copyright notice use it. Otherwise use the site standard contact forms or contact email address.

If they cannot give you permission because those rights do not belong to them they can usually tell you where they got it from in the first place so you can track down the original artist. Getting no reply does not ever give you permission to use the material.

Failing this they may themselves have copied the material without permission of the original author. So do another search for the material in question. Cut a paragraph of text and paste it into Google to see if it appears elsewhere. If it does go to that site and begin the process of finding the copyright holder again.

Always obtain permission to use someone elses work. Even if you think you can do so legally. This avoids any complications down the track.

If you work involves modification of another parties work always keep a record or those conversations. This shows not only that you have permission to use their resources but that you actually did additional work on that resource.

Also keep records and copies of prototypes, mockups, brainstorms and drawings. These are good evidence to show that you did the work from scratch and that your work is not just simply copying someone else’s work.

Hope you found this helpful. The previous article in this series is How do I Protect my Intellectual Property/Copyright Rights Online. This is to be followed by How do I ask permission to use another persons IP?

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