Websites and copyright law

If you have a website, even for personal or recreational use, you should consider copyright issues.  As a general rule, the copyright in a work is owned by its creator, so if you are publishing anything on your site – photos, videos, text – that was created by someone else, you may be infringing on that person’s copyright.  Even links or frames to copyrighted material on other sites may constitute copyright infringement.

If you plan to put other people’s content on your site, the safest thing to do is to contact that person and ask for their permission, or a license, to use their material on your site.  The copyright owner may give you the license for free, or they may ask you to pay for it.  You can search for copyright owners online at the U.S. Copyright Office.

Copyright infringement is very common on the Web, and many infringements go unnoticed.  However, you should not rely on the hope that you won’t get discovered.  Generally, the more traffic that your site gets, the more likely it is that a violation will be discovered.  Large corporations are becoming increasingly aggressive in patrolling the Web for infringement, and new technology allows copyright owners to digitally encode their work with marks so that they can be tracked.  If someone contacts you alleging copyright infringement, the best thing to do is to immediately take the material down while you investigate the issue and possibly consult an attorney.  Quickly removing the offending material will likely help your case if you end up in court.

- Claire Kalia

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