In the early days of the internet, there was no proper legal framework for regulating the internet. Copyrighted content was freely available, shared, and distributed. This caused many copyright holders to file lawsuits and claim damages against huge names like Napster, Limewire, and Pirates Bay. These days, however, the copyright laws on the internet have become a lot stricter. Using a single image that is protected under copyright without permission and approval could take down your entire site and you might even have to pay a fine. To protect your blog from this we have prepared the 10 things you must know about copyright law.
What is copyright?
A Copyright is usually given to a creator of an original work to profit from their work and protect their work from being stolen, created, or reproduced. When a work is copyrighted, only the creator and the people allowed by the creator can profit from their work in the form of reproduction, the creation of spin-offs and sequels, and public display. It however does not protect facts and ideas, but rather its implementations.
Copyright, however, only lasts about 70 years after the creator’s death. It can also be removed by the creator to be used in the public domain before their death making it copyright-free. We usually see this tactic used by musicians who make their song copyright-free to be used in Youtube videos or alike so that more people can discover them.
What is copyright infringement?
A copyright infringement occurs when a party reproduces copyrighted content for the intend of profit without the permission of the copyright holder. An infringer can be sued in a court of law and be punished with jail time and fined up to $150,000 for every work they infringed.
This means that you cannot go around decorating your blog posts with every other image you like. Something as innocent as putting a scenic picture on a travel blog post could land you in a medium-security prison with a fine you might have to pay till death. So do be careful. However, there are workarounds which we will discuss later on.
Expectations to copyright:
There are however three exceptions to copyright where you can use copyrighted work without anyone’s permission.
Fair use takes a few things into consideration. The first and foremost being whether the content using the copyrighted material is transformative enough and has added something new to it. Transformative work can mean things parody, review, criticism, etc. There are youtube channels like the Super Carlin Brothers who regularly show clips from huge movies like Harry Potter when they discuss fan fiction and theories. The nature of the work means that the copyrighted content was either factual or fiction. One has more chance of falling in fair use in cases of factual content. The proportion of the work taken means that what is the driving force behind the new content, is it the transformative work or the original content. Finally, the impact of work is also considered which means that if the new work has taken or negatively impacted the income of the original content.
Face to face instruction:
In face-to-face instruction, copyrighted content can be shown in an educational setting in a physical class.
In virtual instruction, Copyrighted content can be shown in an educational setting in an online class.
What is public domain?
When copyright expires or is waived off, the content enters the public domain which makes it free to re-use, reproduces, display publically, and profit from it. There are many works of art, movies, music, books and so much more sitting in the public domain. A blogger can very easily find what they are looking for by going through the public domain. Getting content from the public domain minimizes the chance of any potential copyright strike or claim.
What is a creative commons license?
A creative commons license is used to free up some of the rights of the copyrighted material so that they can be distributed more and encourage creativity. It consists of four elements.
The use of copyrighted material will be permitted only if the creator of the original work is given their due credit.
The work can be used if not to profit out of. Non-commercial licenses are often given with the software.
Share alike use:
Any spin-off or fan fiction of the original work can be published but only under the same copyright. This means if you write a Harry Potter fan fiction, JK Rowling becomes its owner automatically.
No derivative work:
The work can be copied but no new work can be made out of it.
The creative commons license can be used by bloggers very easily by using copyrighted work to supplement their own work. All you have to do is credit the original creator and link back to them. A creative commons license also works in favor of the original creator by netting them some free publicity and wider reach.
What is the digital millennium copyright act?
Enacted and implemented in 1998, The Digital Millenium copyright act or the DMCA was made to update the US Copyright Law by meeting international standards. It also protects Internet and Online service providers from being sued over the ground of the copyrighted works uploaded onto them.
Suppose, a television show is DVR’ed and uploaded to YouTube without the permission of the original copyright owner. The copyright owner can send a DMCA takedown to YouTube. Youtube can then either remove it themselves or request the user to remove it themselves.
However, what if the snippets of a TV show are shown in some sort of a review which falls under fair use. Youtube is obligated to provide an avenue to the uploader to refute the claims of the original copyright owner. This stops them from abusing their power. The counterclaim has to be responded to in 14 business days, otherwise, the material will be restored without any action taken.
Bloggers can encounter a DMCA when writing about copyrighted work like movies and TV shows.
How many copyright claims can you get?
Copyright claims or DMCA complaints need to be filed once for a blog to be taken down if proved that the blog is displaying copyrighted content. This files a complaint with the blogger’s web host and can even result in google pulling their ads out of it.
There is also a rule of 3 strikes and you are out in effect here. Get three DMCA at one time and your blog will be taken down.
Where to find copyright-free images?
There are some websites that offer images for use in the public domain and creative commons licenses. These websites include Pexels, Pixabay, and Wikimedia.
You can also use find copyright-free images ripe for editing and blogging on web-based image editing software like Adobe spark.
There are also websites where you can buy images like iStock and Shutterstock.
How to protect yourself content?
You can protect your content by posting a Terms of service by specifying what the visitors of your websites can or cannot do with your content. Having Legal Language like ‘’You agree to not copy or sell the content without permission” protects your website from thieves and gives you a legal upper hand in a proceeding. Create a term of service by hiring an attorney and put it on the footer of every page. Also, create a disclaimer so that you will not be held responsible for the misuse of any information by any individual that is posted on your website
You can also protect your content even more by iron cladding it with registering a copyright. Even though the content is automatically protected by copyright once it is published under your name, this gives it an extra layer of protection.
How to send a cease and desist letter and file a DMCA claim:
So someone stole your content after all that paperwork and copyrights. Well, what do you do now? The answer is a Cease and Desist. But before we take this out, send the perpetrator an email threatening against a Cease and desist. This often is an easy fix. The perpetrator when realizing that he is caught will just remove the content without any more arguing. If that does not work then send a Cease and Desist. Hire an Attorney, which is not necessary, but gives more legitimacy to your claim. After that draft a letter with all the links and your copyright number and a 72-hour window.
If that does not work, then file a DMCA claim with the perpetrator’s web-host and Google AdSense. Your content will be taken down and google ads will stop on their website.
We hope that by now you would be having some fair knowledge about copyright law. Try not to steal the content of other people and do not let anyone steal yours. Be aware, of the rights you have and do not become an easy target for the stealers.
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