Webmasterspot - Website creation and management
Exploring Web development and everything that goes together with trying to run a website!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Copyright 101

Content is king! That is a fact that most webmasters would agree with. If you want a successful site, great content is the key. Webmasters spend a great amount of time, effort, and a considerable amount of money to have unique, good quality content created for their sites.

With thousands of new sites sprouting up just to make a few quick bucks from advertising networks, it should come as no surprise that content theft and copyright infringement is becoming a huge problem for website owners. Rather than create their own content these MFA (Made for Adsense) sites simply scrape, steal and copy content from other sites, without giving any regard to copyright.

Aside from these obviously malicious webmasters, there is also an alarming trend amongst new webmasters and website visitors in general to ignore copyright completely. It seems as if the majority of people think, “If it’s on the Internet, you can do with it as you please”. That can’t be further from the truth. In fact, the opposite is true – everything on the Internet is copyrighted, unless it is explicitly stated that the content is in the public domain or that it can be freely used or re-distributed on other sites.

What is copyright and how does it work?
Copyright is the right of an author/artist/musician to control how their work is used. This means that they can determine which sites are allowed to display their images or make use of their articles. It also ensures that the copyright holder gets acknowledged as the owner and creator of the works.

o Copyright is automatically in place as soon as a work is completed and made available in a tangible form (electronic data included).
o A work doesn’t need to be officially copyrighted; however doing so will give added protection in the case of legal action.
o A visible copyright notice is not required, but is advisable to make it clear that the work is copyrighted. If no copyright notice is visible it does not mean that the work is not copyrighted.
o Using a copyrighted work without permission, even if you provide credit or a link to the original site, is still copyright infringement. You need explicit permission from the creator of the work to make use of it in any way.
o You are not allowed to create derivative works based on a copyrighted work.

I have close ties with a community of photographers and artist and they tend to be the victims of copyright infringement on a regular basis. Images and photos can be viewed as the most infringed content on the Web today. This fact can be attributed to how easily images can be stolen and the difficulty the copyright owner has in tracking down sites that are using their stolen images. Wallpaper sites, especially those that allow their users to submit images are most often the culprits.

Although the wallpaper site owner might not be directly responsible, they tend not to moderate submissions or take any steps to ensure that the member that uploads the image is actually the copyright holder of that image. I’ve seen various sites where stolen images were allowed even though the image was clearly watermarked and showed the URL of the original site it was stolen from. In most of these cases the Webmaster tries to hide behind excuses that the user submitted the image, that they didn’t know it was copyrighted, or that they will remove the image if someone complains about it. Some even go so far as to use images without permission adding a “If you want your image to be removed, contact us.” notice on the site. Obviously hoping that the copyright owner will never find the site, or that in the event they are discovered the notice will protect them from any legal action.

In my opinion this is not enough and in most cases a poor attempt at getting around copyright. As a Webmaster you are responsible for the content on your site and you need to take every precaution to ensure that you have the permission and right to make that content available on the site. By not ensuring that you have permission to make use of the content you make yourself legally liable and you can jeopardize the existence of your site.

Education is the most important tool in combating copyright infringement. Webmasters and the general public need to be made aware that most content available on the Internet is copyrighted and that you can’t just do with it as you please. If everyone respects copyright you will free their creators from the burden of trying to enforce their copyright; allowing them to do what they love... creating new works for you to enjoy!

No comments: