It is a common misconception that if something has been posted online, it is in the public domain and may be copied, reposted, extracted from, commented on and used freely.
No, this is not the case. In fact, this is wrong. If you copy material off the Internet without permission, you are very likely infringing the rights of the copyright owner.
Further, some people think if a picture or article does not have a Copyright symbol or notice, it is not protected and can be freely used. Again, this is not correct. If you are not the artist, photographer or original author, it does not belong to you and you cannot use it without their permission.
Such breaches are common on the Internet, for example:
- Reposting a picture or photo you found that you like on Facebook or Pinterest
- Commenting on an article you reposted to your website or blog
- Reposting an email sent by someone else, etc.
In addition, people believe that:
- If you link back to the original source material it’s OK to re-post
- The site or author are getting free advertising from you, so it’s to their ‘benefit’
- If they’re not gaining financially from re-posting, it’s not a violation, etc.
There are copyright exceptions and penalties
There is a ‘fair dealing’ exception in the legislation (Copyright Act 1968 section 41) which permits, for example, comments and short quotations to be used for, what is termed in the legislation “fair use”. However, you may not profit from any re-use. In addition, you must attribute the author, artist or photographer with the full title of their work being posted.
As for penalties, even Google is beginning to penalize websites that post copyrighted material or use other people’s material without permission. This change came into effect after 8 October 2012. And this issue will likely snowball with the growth of the Internet and more businesses and individuals trying to protect their work, ideas, photographs and original material.
To be safe, check with the owner of the site that you are copying the material from and ensure you obtain their written permission to re-post. Also ensure you provide a link back and full attribution to the author and their material.
And protect your own material and your website by ensuring you have a clear Copyright statement in your Terms & Conditions. If someone uses your material without your express permission, you can send them a Copyright Infringement Notice to formally request them to remove it. So, know your rights!
If someone has copied your work online, use our Copyright Infringement Notice to request take down, compensation or offer licensing. Plus what to do if you’re ignored. Get the Legal123: