Copyright Myths That Refuse to Die.
I’ve been attending the Snap! conference this week and it looks like a bunch of scary copyright myths are walking among us. These copyright myths are like zombies that refuse to die. While they may not eat your brains, they can certainly muddle your thinking and expose you to some serious danger. Personally, I believe all zombies deserve to die so here’s my attempt to put them in the grave, once and for all.
Myth #1 – I Found it on the Internet, so its OK to Use it!
With the advent of Wikimedia Commons and similar public domain resources, many bloggers seem to believe that anything floating around on the Internet is fair game. Really? Just think about that for a minute. If somebody steals YOUR content and posts it to their YouTube channel or their blog, would you think that’s ok? Of course not – so don’t assume that you can just take any content that you find out there and use it as you’d like. Unless, of course, you want to help some attorney send his or her kid to college.
Myth #2 – I Changed it 10% (or 20%), so its OK to Use it!
No. Stop. Please. Think of the children. This just doesn’t make any sense. How would you measure “20%” anyway? Who would do the measuring? Based on what I’ve been told, some graphic design schools actually teach this little “rule” as part of their curriculum. Don’t go to that school, ok? There is no “20%” test or anything like it so don’t get trapped by this zombie.
Myth #3 – It’s “Fair Use,” so its OK to Use it!
Here’s the deal. I’m an attorney and I’ve been studying and working with copyright law for more than 20 years. The law on “fair use” is very complicated and it’s not easy to figure out unless you have a ton of experience. Even most lawyers don’t really get it so, no offense, but you’re not qualified to make this judgment. You may be really, really, smart but do you really want to find out that you’re not as smart as you thought you were by being sued for copyright infringement?
Myth #4 – It Didn’t Have a Copyright Notice, so its OK to Use it!
Stuff is often posted on the Internet without any kind of copyright notice so, of course, that means copyright law doesn’t apply, right? Wrong! Many years ago (like before many of you were born), including a copyright notice was a strict requirement to preserve your rights in your work. That hasn’t been true for decades so don’t rely on this outdated idea to protect you from the copyright zombies. Including a copyright notice with your work is still a very good idea for a variety of reasons, but it’s not required anymore.
Myth #5 – I Didn’t Make Any Money From it, so its OK to Use it!
Many bloggers seem to think that if they post content from someone else but don’t make any money from it, they aren’t violating any copyright laws. Sorry. That’s not the rule. The “commercial” nature of your use is but one of four factors to be evaluated when deciding the issue of copyright infringement. If you don’t know what the other three are, you’d better not depend on this single factor to save you from the copyright zombies.
Myth #6 – I Posted a Disclaimer, and Said That I Didn’t Own the Copyright, so its OK to Use it!
Seriously? Who makes this stuff up? The basic rule is pretty simple. If you take someone’s content and use it without their permission, you have likely violated their rights. Sure, there are many complicated rules that may or may not affect your liability, and may limit how much money you have to pay, but those details typically get hashed out in court, where you are the defendant in a lawsuit.
Myth #7 – I Gave the Copyright Owner Credit, so its OK to Use it!
Once again, not only is this not true, it just doesn’t even make any sense. You can’t republish Harry Potter for your own purposes and then dodge liability by simply giving credit to J.K. Rowling. While giving credit to the original creator of the photo, artwork, or whatever is usually the right thing to do, that alone won’t save you from a claim of copyright infringement.
Copyright law can be somewhat intimidating but whatever you do, don’t rely on these copyright myths when creating content for your blog. Watch for an upcoming post where I’ll give you the basic ground rules to follow so that you can stay on the right side of the law.
Remember – Be Smart. Be Legal.
Disclaimer – Yes, I’m a lawyer, but I’m not your lawyer. All information in this post is provided for educational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice for any person or specific situation.