Copyright Infringement has become a nuisance for small business owners. It’s not because small business owners never do anything wrong. It is because a small mistake can result in massive consequences.
What is a Copyright?
A copyright is a legal device that gives the holder the right to decide how, who, and when the copyrighted content is used. There are two types of copyright: common law and registered. The common law copyright is automatic. That means when a person creates a piece of original content, he or she is automatically given a copyright over that content. We did an earlier blog on what a registered copyright is.
Copyright Infringement occurs when a person or entity uses another’s copyrighted work without legal permission or excuse. For example, if I take a picture from a photographer’s website and use it on my own without receiving permission to do so, I would be committing copyright infringement. This blog focuses on images found on the internet, but copyright infringement can occur in a plethora of different ways.
Make Your Own
The easiest way to avoid a copyright infringement claim is to make your own images. Take pictures of things around the office or design your own graphic on your computer. If you design your own graphic, it must still be unique. Tracing or making near exact copies of something is still a violation of that person’s copyright.
If you don’t want to make your own, the next best thing is paid sites. As long as a reasonable person would believe that the site you’re using is legitimate, you should be fine. Caveat: You must read the licensing agreement. Be sure to check whether you can use the images for business purposes. Some sites will limit your usage. Anything outside the license is infringement.
Free Images Sites
Paid sites can sometimes cost as little as ten cents, so I strongly recommend those sites first. However, if even the small cost of these sites is too much, you can sometimes safely look to the free images sites. Unfortunately, you need to do more work to ensure you’re protected. The free images may have a limited license or creative commons. You will need to read what these mean. Additionally, you should do a little more background search to ensure the legitimacy of the site you’re using. Free stuff is a different area of law from paid stuff. Therefore, you’re at a higher risk if it turns out the site did not have authority to give you the image.
Documentation to Defend Copyright Infringement Claims
Even if you paid for the image, you can still end up on the wrong end of one of these disputes. For example, I had a client who bought all of his images. Unfortunately, one of the sites he bought from closed down. Years later, my client was contacted for alleged infringement of a copyright he bought from the paid site. He could no longer prove he bought it because all the records were stored on the site that closed down. You can protect yourself with proper documentation. Keep a document or spreadsheet that identifies the image and lists how and from where you obtained it. Be sure to include any licenses attached to the images.
If you’d like any help with a copyright infringement claim against you, please feel free to contact us using the form below. Additionally, we can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 919-912-9640.