Thursday 30 June 2011

Copyright Laws -- Internet

Copyright laws on the internet are like any other. Works are protected in the same way they are protected in books or any other medium. OK, some people seem to think that anything goes. It is a kind of anarchy on the internet sometimes although it is gradually getting better. The internet is still growing up.

Please presume that everything you see on the internet is protected by copyright unless something or someone says otherwise. The best route is to ask for permission. Sometimes you get that permission up front without asking.

For example, Wikipedia allow you to copy their work under a Wikipedia commons license. This applies to images and text but please read the terms and conditions.

I know you are in a hurry and it it a bore but there is no other way. Creative commons is one way to use text and images. Some work can be used if the author provides users with a license either under creative commons or a license of their own making. These licenses are are often forms of the creative commons license. If a license to use is granted the terms and conditions must be complied with. The barest minimum will be providing the author with a credit and perhaps a link back to the original work. The later is both polite and possibly a legal requirement.

I discuss free public domain photos in more detail.

Copyright is easy to breach on the internet because everything tends to be immediate and instantaneous and it is almost impossible to enforce copyright laws considering the enormous amount of new material uploaded to the internet daily. Google, though, is beginning to take it seriously and the time will come when breaches will be prevented electronically, I predict. This would be proactive rather than the current cumbersome reactive measures.

The single most pervasive and important copyright law regarding the internet and any other medium is the Berne Convention, an agreement between 164 countries at the date of this post, under which they enforce copyright under the same rules. I mention this in the video above but you can read more on Wikipedia.

Copyright laws are complicated if studied in detail. I think it best to take an overview, understand the basics and play safe. This is legal and polite. One problem is that the internet is an international medium and laws change country to country. The Berne Convention is an umbrella agreement that provides minimum copyright protection. Some countries may have tougher legislation.

Michael Avatar

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