The following material is not legal advice. Such advice can only be provided by a professional attorney who is licensed to practice in your domain and who has reviewed and considered your specific concern(s) and your situation carefully.
The explosion of artistic material on the internet has brought about the beginning of a specialized segment of the legal services of many law firms. Perhaps you may be interested in some of the background material on copyright laws and their applicability to the types of material published and available on the Internet.
The following is a simple statement of applicability and accepted practices for website authors to use which comply with U.S. and International Copyright Laws. In general a copyright extends benefits to the originator for his life plus 50 years. There are exceptions, depending on the type of material.
Copyright is the right to copy in any form (reproduce, perform, adapt, publish, publish translations, convert to a different format, communicate by telecommunication, rent, exhibit in public, etc.), in whole or in part, an original creative work. Original creative works include literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, and computer programs.
A few things which are not protected by copyright are: names, titles, slogans, short phrases, factual information, plots, characters, and methods or techniques. Some of these, however, can be protected in other ways. For example, names or slogans can be trademarked.
Usually copyright is owned by the creator of the work. If, however, you create the work as part of your job, the copyright belongs to your employer unless there is an employment agreement specifying otherwise. In any case, copyright applies automatically.
The Universal Copyright Convention states that copyright indication to appear on the work must include: a "c" with a circle around it -- © -- or the word "copyright"; the name of the owner; and the year in which the work is first published. It is a good idea to include a copyright notification on your web page for two reasons:
The use of Copyright material is something that seems to be frequently abused on the Internet. The probable reason for this is the ease with which information can be copied and transmitted from the privacy of the office or home. Nevertheless, national and international copyright laws still apply to text, images, animated images and sound bytes on the Internet.
Other than fair dealing, you may only use or reproduce copyright material with the express permission of the copyright holder. Any fee for the use of the work must be reasonable and agreed upon by the user and the owner. Being the owner of the copyright includes the right to sell or otherwise transfer that copyright to another.
If you are going to publish a Web page, there are a lot of items that you need to consider. One way to learn about good page design is to browse through other people's well designed pages. You can use your browser's View |Source command to preview the HTML markup, locate the .GIF and .MID files, identify scripts, and generally get the inside view of how the page is designed and constructed. This is analogous to running your favorite computer application and being able to call up the source code in a window to see how certain subroutines operate. With such easy access to the inner workings and contents of other Web pages, it seems only natural to borrow, paste, modify and otherwise use the resources of the Internet to fashion your own or organization's presence on the Internet.
As far as expression of an idea goes, a Web Page is not much different than a magazine, book or multimedia CD-ROM. In that a Web page can contain text, graphics, audio and video, the similarity to a CD-ROM is appropriate. Generally, everything on a CD is copyrighted. If you look at a computer game, most people understand that the eerie music and distinctive graphics are copyrighted. Similarly, if you look at a Multimedia encyclopedia CD, most people understand that the graphics and narrative are protected by copyright.
Now suppose you are viewing a well designed Web page that you particularly like and you decide to save it to your local hard drive. You can either use your browser's "Save" function to save the Web page as it looks (minus the graphics) or you can use your browser's " Source|Save"; function to save the HTML code to your local hard drive. In like manner, by "right" clicking on a specific graphic displayed or midi tune being played on a website, the graphic, defined by a specific digital algorithm, is transferred to the hard drive. Are we copying yet? At this point, you have transferred the information from dynamic RAM to a fixed space on your hard drive; you have effectively copied the material. In doing so, a user may consider himself innocent of copyright violations by the doctrine of "fair use" (see Note 1 below). However when the material is incorporated into your own website design, transferred to a website server/provider and displayed for public consumption as your original work, copyright infringement is clearly in effect.
Another technical way to infringe on copyrighted website materials is to construct composite Web pages using different elements from diverse pages or servers to create a new Web page. However, instead of copying the elements to the composite page, the elements are linked in to the URL address of the original material elements.
Thus, the composite page would consist of a series of links to other sites and servers. When the viewer, who has accessed the composite page, hidden syntax of the page directs his browser to get the graphics and other elements linked from the original website. Use of copyrighted material in this manner is also unlawful as well as placing a bandwidth demand on the server on which the element resides.
If you know of an item that you would like to use that was created by someone else and whose copyright has not expired, then the most prudent course of action is to license the right to use that item from the copyright owner.
For example, if someone wanted to insert a graphic of Darth Vader on their Web page, they would have to contact Lucas Films and obtain a license to use the Darth Vadar image. The license would spell out how the user would use the image, how much the user would be willing to pay to use the image, and any other conditions and restrictions deemed relevant. Then, if upon agreement with the terms Lucas Films would provide either the rights for use or licence for use to the requester.
"The primary objective of copyright is not to reward the labor of authors, but to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts. To this end, copyright assures authors the right to their original expression, but encourages others to build freely upon the ideas and information conveyed by a work. This result is neither unfair nor unfortunate. It is the means by which copyright advances the progress of science and art."
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor
Feist Publications, Incorporated vrs Rural Telephone Service Company
499 US 340, 349 (1991)
The genius of United States copyright law is that, in conformance with its constitutional foundation, it balances the intellectual property interests of authors, publishers and copyright owners with society's need for the free exchange of ideas. Taken together, fair use and other public rights to utilize copyrighted works, as confirmed in the Copyright Act of 1976, constitute indispensable legal doctrines for promoting the dissemination of knowledge, while ensuring authors, publishers and copyright owners appropriate protection of their creative works and economic investments.
The fair use provision of the Copyright Act allows reproduction and other uses of copyrighted works under certain conditions for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship or research. Additional provisions of the law allow uses specifically permitted by Congress to further educational and library activities. The preservation and continuation of these balanced rights in an electronic environment as well as in traditional formats are essential to the free flow of information and to the development of an information infrastructure that serves the public interest.
It follows that the benefits of the new technologies should flow to the public as well as to copyright proprietors. As more information becomes available only in electronic formats, the public's legitimate right to use copyrighted material must be protected. In order for copyright to truly serve its purpose of "promoting progress," the public's right of fair use must continue in the electronic era, and these lawful uses of copyrighted works must be allowed without individual transaction fees.
Without infringing copyright, the public has a right to expect:
Without infringing copyright, nonprofit libraries and other Section 108 libraries, on behalf of their clientele, should be able:
Users, libraries, and educational institutions have a right to expect:
Revised 27 Pct '12