Have you ever written a newsletter article, blog item or term paper and found a really witty quote that you just had to include? Whether your piece is published on paper or on the Internet the answer is yes, you can use that quote. Or to put it better, you can borrow that quote. Make sure you give the person the credit for the original thought. If on the Internet the best way to do this is by a hyperlink. If you don’t give the person credit you are guilty of plagiarism, which is the theft of an idea or expression of an idea.
What exactly is copyright and what does it protect? Copyright is a law that protects works of artistic endeavor such as novels, poetry, songs, movies, computer software and architecture. Since January of 1978, the protection lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years. A work doesn’t need to be published to be copyright protected. As soon as its creation it is copyright protected. A short story or poem hand written in a notebook is protected.
Copyright does not protect facts, ideas or methods of operations but the expression of the idea. Also names, logos, slogans and phrases cannot be copyright protected. However, these unique characters can be protected as a trademark.
Many believe that everything on the Internet is up for grabs. The law often has a hard time catching up to technology. Many think the Internet is a threat to copyright. The Internet is full of information. That the work is not protected is not true. In fact everything on the Internet is protected. For example, a website itself is not protected but the content located on it is protected such as the links, video, graphics and so on.
When you create a website, there are certain things you can and cannot do. It is possible to link to other websites. However, make sure you have permission to do so. Some websites have restrictions to what websites they are linked to. Plus just like in a term paper if you use a quote just remember to cite your sources. When using “free” graphics make sure it is expressly said that the graphics are free to use. If it does not say that, assume they are copyright-protected.
Some things you cannot do is include another author’s content from their website onto yours without permission, forward someone else’s email, copy someone else’s resource list or change or edit the content material from another website to the point that it changes the meaning of the original.
Whenever any work is placed on the Internet, the author has to know that it will be read, printed out, downloaded or in some way used in another person’s work. This is called an implied license. It is very similar to sending a letter to an editor. Few of these letters have the line “you may publish this” which is expressed license. However, if you send such a letter you should know that is what could happen. The problem with implied license is the lines are very vague. How much of the work can be used without receiving more permission. Can large scale deviations be performed? Can it be distributed to a large audience but with no profit?
Just how much of their work do authors want readers or listeners to have? One way to give voice to this inquiry is to place a Creative Commons on your Internet content. This gives your work an express license to grant only certain usage of the material. It still allows your work to be part of the creative stream on the Internet while giving you some protection against potential abuse.
Another useful part of copyright is Fair Use. It is the balance between copyright law that protects an author’s work and the right of public expression. It permits the use of another’s work to educate, create a commentary or a review of such material. Crediting the original author is key, the use of the work should not generate income for the person using it.
The bottom line on the Internet as in the more substantial world is to use another’s work with respect. Make sure when you find that great statement, phrase or poem that you cite your sources. Give credit where it is due. After all, you would wish the same respect for your own work.