25th anniversary ribbon

September 13, 2012

Ten Copyright Myths

James Giese UWEBC Communications Director

Melinda S. Giftos, an Attorney with Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek S.C., was a featured guest speaker at UWEBC’s E-Merchant Peer Group meeting on September 13, 2012.

Concerns about privacy issues online, what should companies understand about use of social media by their employees, and what are the best practices for confidentiality provisions are all issues that Mindi Giftos, an attorney with Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek S.C., covered during her presentation to UWEBC’s E-Merchant Peer Group. One area that Giftos focused on was what constitutes correct use of online content. Giftos noted that many companies don’t understand what constitutes correct legal use of third party content online and when it is acceptable to use another’s content both with and without a license.

According to Giftos it is now very easy to use someone else’s work--thanks to the Internet; however, there is a great risk and sometimes very substantial penalties for using material without proper permission. The penalties can range up to the $100,000 per infringement plus attorney fees and costs.

 Here is a summary of what Giftos calls “myths of online copyright use:

  1. “If there is no copyright notice, I am free to use the material ”: No, according to Giftos, although it is best to use a copyright notice, it is not required and the material is still copyright to the creator.
  2.  “If a work is really old; it must be ok to use”: No. Determining if a work is still under copyright or in the public domain is challenging and difficult.
  3.  “I am not infringing if I give the creator credit”: No. You still need to obtain permission from the creator to use their material.
  4.  “If I am not using it to make money I am not infringing on a copyright”: No. Using something for educational or non-profit use makes no difference to a copyright violation.
  5.  “If I brought it, I can use it however I want”: No. Licenses for creative content will usually have very specific instructions for how and where the material can be used.
  6.  “I can use it if I only use 10%”: No. There are no limits to what percentages constitute a copyright violation. It often depends on intent.
  7.  “No one will notice if I use it”: No. In many cases, companies are constantly scanning for the use of their copyrighted material. And the Internet makes it easy to find violators.
  8.  “If someone thinks I am infringing; they will send me a letter I will simply take it down”: No. In many cases, owners of copyright material will actively pursue violators and do not have to give a notice that the material is being used illegally.
  9.  “If I took a photo or shot the video, I am free to use it however I want”: No. An example is the individual recording of a concert or pro sporting event that then sold to others.
  10.  “I don’t need to worry about obtaining protection for my own works, I have common law rights.”: No. Creators should understand intellectual property rights and understand how to protect their work.

According to Giftos, the best course of action is to always ask for permission to use another’s work. The risk of incorrectly thinking a use is fair is substantial and can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.


© 2000-2023 UW E-Business Consortium, University of Wisconsin-Madison. All rights reserved. Site credits»