By Miriam Nicole Huffman, Legal Ease Columnist
As more entrepreneurs use the Internet to engage with their audience and share relevant information, they must be careful when reproducing content found on-line. It is important to know that information provided on blogs and websites may be protected under US copyright laws. In order to prevent a potential lawsuit, here are three ways entrepreneurs can avoid copyright infringement when using photos, written data, or videos found on the Internet.
Do not use photos that you did not take, received prior permission to use, or purchased the rights to use on your website and/or social media accounts. This includes photos on Google Images. Unless you know that the image is in the public domain and not subject to a copyright violation, do not assume you may use it. There are some websites that contain “creative commons” photos that are available for free use with proper accreditation to the image’s owner. This is a great option for bloggers and e-magazine editors who have a high demand for photographs. There are also companies on-line who sale images. It is important, however, to do your research before purchasing from these companies. Do not buy images from an unknown or unreliable source. The company may be illegitimate and not own the rights to the photos it is selling. If you use the image, you can still be sued by its owner.
2.) Written Content
Do not reproduce another source’s written content. Whether it is a book or a website, copyright laws are in place to protect the original author. Improper use of copyrighted material is frequently found around the Internet. Many website and blog owners have “Terms and Conditions of Use” that prohibit the re-distribution of their material without prior, express permission. In the absence of a disclaimer, it is still possible to commit copyright infringement. To avoid negligent use of copyrighted content, summarizing the information and linking back to the original source would be a safer choice. Furthermore, written material includes quotes. Do not use a quote without citing the source or without verifying whether the source requires permission and/or payment for using the quote. There are some quotes that may not be reproduced without prior approval of the person who made the statement.
3.) YouTube Videos
Do not embed YouTube videos that you do not own. These videos are the copyrighted material of the person who uploaded them. To avoid violating the law, the best thing to do prior to using the video is to ask permission. Other options for using copyrighted YouTube videos on your business website are to summarize the information in the video and provide the YouTube link with credit to the owner; embed the video on your website or social media platform, include a “no copyright infringement is intended” disclaimer, and credit the owner; only use clips of the video for educational purposes, or purchase the content.
While it may be tempting to use information from sources gathered around the Internet, it is essential to do your homework before re-publishing the information. A prior examination can go a long way in preventing an unwanted lawsuit and many issues may be avoided by simply asking for permission to use the content.
Contributed by Miriam Nicole Huffman, Esquire of MiriamNicoleHuffman.com.