Web Developer Tools

Copyright on the Web

In Minnesota one of our politicians recently got into trouble because he was republishing news articles on his web site without permission. Actually he was republishing modified articles without permission. It seemed like a good reason to remind folks about copyright.

Copyright on the Internet gets tricky because it’s so much easier to copy a creative form of expression – be it text, music, artwork or other. It also gets more dangerous because if you use copyrighted work on a web site anyone with access to the web can see it. So, it’s easier to get caught.

LLRX, a neat legal resource, just published a great article on Copyright and Licensing Digital Materials. It’s worth checking out for in depth info.

Here’s a shortlist of rules I have used with various clients when creating web sites:

  • Links are not copyrighted. Links are really addresses and you can’t copyright an address because an address is not creative; it’s a fact. (You can’t copyright facts.)
  • Republishing articles on your site is rarely a good idea. Even if you are the original author, you may not have copyright permission. Check with the original publisher before using an article and get explicit permission to use it. (Once you get it be sure to add that permission to the web site.)
  • When in doubt – link to articles. As I said before links are OK. You can even preface a link with an annotation, rebuttal, or other comment. So, introduce an article and then link people directly to it.
  • Don’t forget to add a copyright to your own work. Once you add the copyright sign; you are copyrighted. This is a first line of defense.
    However if you want to get serious (or sue someone over copyright) you will also want to register your work with the US Copyright Office.

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