Copyright Infringement

Posted on: April 16th, 2015

Copyright and the Internet

The internet is a powerful tool for businesses and individuals for finding out information, be it for research or informative purposes. However, many are unaware of the implications of copyright infringement when it comes to the internet and this briefing is a reminder of what copyright is and when an infringement may occur.

What is Copyright?

Copyright protects original artistic, musical, dramatic and literary works (including computer programs), sound recordings, films, broadcasts and typographical arrangements of published works.

It arises automatically on the creation of the work and lasts for 70 years after the death of the author for artistic, musical, dramatic and literary works. Sound recordings and broadcasts are protected for 50 years from the date of publication. On 1 November 2013, the period of copyright protection for sound recordings increased to 70 years.

Copyright does not protect against independent development of the same idea(s), only against the actual copying of another’s work.

Ownership of copyright will allow the owner to prevent unauthorised use of the work, such as the making of copies; or issuing copies to the public. 

The materials on the internet are there for everyone to use for free… aren’t they?

The internet is full of useful poems for that all important card for a loved one, photographs and images which are much better than you could produce yourself and provides access to a great deal of music and videos ideal for use on your website or in a presentation to your customers.

It is all too easy to make copies of materials that are found on the internet. BUT, these poems, images, videos or audio clips have been created and are owned by someone.

If you copy other businesses or people’s material from the internet without permission, you are infringing the owner’s copyright. The owner of the copyright material may decide to enforce their rights against you and you could be taken to court, fined and have to pay compensation to the copyright owner if you are found to have infringed their rights.

How to Avoid Copyright Infringement

1. Be Creative

If you create your own original works then you will not infringe the rights of any third party. Make sure you keep details of the creative process in developing the works so if any third party should claim copyright infringement or if you want to take action against another party you have full details as to when you created the work.

2. Be wary of simply tweaking the image or article

Copyright Infringement will arise if a substantial part of the work has been copied. This isn’t clear cut and a “substantial part” is not defined by copyright law. The courts have interpreted this to mean a qualitatively significant part of a work even where this is not a large part of the work. It is therefore likely that even a small portion of a work if copied would amount to a substantial part.

3. Don’t copy from the internet

Although the internet seems to be a useful and cheap way of obtaining materials for your own use, care needs to be taken to ensure that you are not infringing anyone’s rights by using the materials.  Don’t just copy and paste an image from a website, check to see if there are any terms of use for the particular image or the website and if in doubt ASK permission.  Some websites now allow use of their materials without payment but generally this is for non-commercial use which means you can use it personally but not to make any commercial gain.

4. Know your rights

There are certain exceptions when you can use a copyright work without infringing the rights of the owner of the work which include:

Non-commercial research and private study

You are permitted to copy limited extracts of works created by a third party when the use is for non-commercial research or private study. The exception will only apply when it is ‘fair dealing’ and copying the whole work would not generally be considered fair dealing.

Criticism, review and reporting current events Fair dealing for criticism, review or quotation is allowed for any type of copyright work. Fair dealing with a work for the purpose of reporting current events is allowed for any type of copyright work other than a photograph. In each of these cases, a sufficient acknowledgment will be required.

Personal copying for private use

You are permitted to make copies of  CDs, ebooks etc. that you have bought, for private purposes such as format shifting or backup without infringing copyright. This exemption would allow you to copy the music on a CD to your MP3 player provided that the music is only used for your own personal circumstances.  The exception does not extend however to making copies for your family and friends.

How do I protect my copyright on my website?

1. Copyright Notices

It is advisable although it is not a requirement to use the international copyright mark to make users of your website aware of your rights in the website for example on each page of your website you should use the © followed by the year and your business name, such as © 2015 Coffin Mew

2. Express Statements

It is advisable for all websites to have a set of terms of use which govern the use of the website by visitors to the site.  The terms will ideally contain provisions to protect the material on the site from unauthorised copying but also include disclaimers or statements which are designed to limit the expectations of the users in relation to the information provided on the website.

3. Digital Protection

There are a number of technical protection measures that you can put in place to protect the materials on your website which include:

  • Encryption – You can encrypt your website or certain parts of the site which can only be seen by those individuals to whom you have provided the decoding key. This isn’t that practical for most websites but may be suitable if you are looking to protect certain elements of the site.
  • Password Protection – Similar to encryption but a simpler process where you only allow access to the site or certain elements of the site if the user has registered with you.
  • Watermarking – this generally relates to the protection of images where you incorporate a digital watermark on your photos by embedding a copyright notice in the pixels of the image . The watermark cannot be seen whilst it is present on your website but if the image is copied and used elsewhere the watermark will become evident by the copying party.

Unfortunately none of these measures are fail safe especially in today’s society where hackers are able to disrupt the day to day business of Sony Pictures, the French TV network TV5Monde and even the likes of NASA and the Pentagon.

For more information please contact Amy Kerr, Associate, Commercial Services.