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Copyright, the as it pertains to you:

This page is meant to enlighten and help you better understand the copyright laws, that may affect you, or your website.  I will try to break it all down, into one page.  This is very basic information as I am not an attorney and this is meant as general information only.  Any legal questions should be asked through legal counsel.  More information may be found at the U.S. Copyright Office.  I have included links to other helpful resources as well.

When images, text, music, code, etc. are used on a WebPage. they are technically published, or fixed in a tangible form.  The copyright symbol '' can be used by anyone, as long as what it is accompanying is their work or property, or used in conjunction with another's work that is 'used by permission'.  You do not have to register the work with the U.S. Copyright Office in order to have a legal copyright.  However, if a time ever comes where you want to file a lawsuit, for monetary damages - you will likely need this federal registration.  Otherwise, just having it fixed in a tangible form that has a fixed date should suffice as date of creation and proof of ownership.  See 'Poor Man's Copyright' below.


What is Covered by Copyright

The different kinds of works covered by copyright include: literary works such as novels, poems, plays, reference works, newspapers and computer programs; databases; films, musical compositions, and choreography; artistic works such as paintings, drawings, photographs and sculpture; architecture; and advertisements, maps and technical drawings.

Fair Use 

Many webmasters use the term "I use it legally under the 'Fair Use' doctrine."  Most people haven't even studied the Fair Use doctrine and just go with what they have been told, or heard; "Your not using it commercially, or reselling it - it's ok to use."  SORRY, but that's wrong!  I can't give legal advice, I am not an Attorney.  But, I highly recommend a trip to the US Copyright Office and read for yourself. 

From Copyright

"Fair Use is a long-standing legal concept that has been clearly defined by the Copyright Act and opinions from the U.S. Supreme Court. Under Fair Use, it is occasionally legal to make copies of copyrighted material without permission of the owner - but only under very specific circumstances."

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Getting Permission

If you plan on using anything that is not yours you must obtain permission first.  Sounds simple - not very often.  Check out this link for more information on Getting Permission.


'Poor-Man's Copyright'

Musicians, writers, artists and many others use the federal mail for what is called the 'Poor-Man's' copyright. You would simply place the item (poem, song cassette, computer disc) in an envelope and mail it by registered mail back to yourself. When you receive the item back in the mail, don't open it!  Secure it in an airtight container (baggie) and put it in a safe place.  If you ever need proof of a date of creation, the 'unopened' postmarked item will stand in court as proof of the date of creation.  This is the cheapest form of copyright proof.  If you are a professional, please, use the U.S. Copyright office.

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Cut & Paste

It has become an all to common practice in the Internet to right-click, or control-C and copy images.  Most all of what you see on the Internet is copyrighted!   To copy an image and then paste it into your website is theft, plain and simple!

Some sites are in the business of letting you copy all the images you want - provided, you give credit back to them.  If you do this, please be considerate enough to credit your source.

As a caution to the above - any site stating "As far as we know, all images on this site are in the public domain" STEER CLEAR!  These sites are not using original creations, but most likely a collection of images copied from other sites.   They do not know what is public domain and what is not... and they really do not care.  Pleading ignorance will not help you in a court of law!

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Using photographs that you did not take yourself can land you in court quickly!  Many photos were illegally copied and re-distributed after the 9-11 attack.   Pictures and video of the buildings, people, fire personnel etc. were taken (created) by a very few people.  ALL of these photos are copyrighted with the U.S. Copyright office.  Newspapers, magazines, television stations, and others, pay huge amounts of money to the owners of the photos and video to use these images legally.  Be safe... do not use any photographs you have not taken yourself.  Even if purchased on a commercially available CD ROM, check the CDs for licensing information - some are only meant for personal use, like screen-savers etc. and are not to be published/distributed... Yes, publishing to a website is distribution.

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Have you ever gone to a website, and read something that you would just love to have on your website?  Well, don't copy it.  It would be no different than writing a book and using someone else's work as your content.  Be original and use your own words; if someone says something you like, then find your own words to describe it.


In General

Having a website is a serious thing; you must use good judgement and common sense when it comes to your content.  If you are not sure if something is legal, then do not use it.  If you see a website that has some cool coding, don't copy and paste the code into your pages!  HTML coding is copyrightable.  Instead LOOK at the code and get ideas you can use from it.  Take notes - it never hurts to write some coding notes, it's a great way to learn.  Copying the code and then just changing a few things is still infringement of the copyright.

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Visit this site for more information: "What is Copyright Protection" It is written by an attorney and is very helpful.  But, don't take his word!   Read the facts at the US Copyright Office.

Also, visit the U.S. Copyright Office website - a huge resource!  You may find information, search copyright records, or even file for your own copyright.

WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization)



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