Truth and lies about on line content

Published, 5 years ago

Creating interesting and valuable content for your site is massively important, as I’m sure you’re already aware. So sometimes it can be tempting to taking short cuts with images or text that you haven’t produced. Good old copy and paste just makes it too simple for us. But you need to more careful, if you don’t own it, you might not be able to use it. Robert Lands, Head of Intellectual Property at HowardKennedyFsi LLP, has spoken to us about what to look out for and what to do if you get caught out.

What is the worst lie people have been told about online content?

There are numerous myths about online content, the scariest being, “If it’s online that means it’s in the public domain and anyone can use it for free”.

This is of course, completely untrue for most online content. Words, pictures, videos, illustrations and even sounds are all copyright works and copyright is not waived just by virtue of the work appearing online. The fact that the work is online might make copying easier, but it doesn’t make it lawful. Note that copyright still applies whether or not the © symbol or other warnings appear online alongside the work.

People are often also under the misapprehension that if you credit the source of the material that’s being copied, then copyright is not infringed. That can actually be true in some cases, but it only applies in very limited circumstances. In the UK there is a defence to copyright infringement called “Fair Dealing” which can allow you to use other people’s work without obtaining permission, but only if: (i) a proper attribution is given; (ii) the use is actually fair in the circumstances; and (iii) the use is for one of a very narrow list of fair dealing activities, such as “reporting of news and current events” (though this defence cannot be used in relation to photographs) or “criticism and review”.

The “Fair Dealing” defence is much narrower than its US law cousin “Fair Use” (which does not apply in the UK). And it may be that some of the myths that circulate about online content arise because of differences in the law in different parts of the world. For example, in many countries, it is permissible to make a copy of copyright material you already own in another media, but in the UK this is still illegal, though there are proposals to introduce a private copying right into our law later this year (2014).

What is the best advice you can give to someone who has been caught out?

The advice I would give would very much depend on the individual circumstances of the case. There may be a clear defence to an infringement (assuming that an infringement has occurred), but if it is a genuine mistake, sometimes the best approach is simply to apologise. Especially if it is a relatively small matter. In litigation it’s amazing how rare it is to get a genuine apology and often that’s what the aggrieved party wants more than anything, particularly when it’s accompanied by an offer to make amends. You could perhaps offer to pay a reasonable licence fee for the material you have used. It may much be cheaper, in the long run, than having to fight a case through the Courts.

However, an apology is an admission of liability, and I would strongly recommend you take advice from a specialist lawyer before deciding on that course of action. Admitting liability will mean, in law, that you are agreeing that the claimant has a right to a remedy. Legal remedies include damages (financial compensation) and the right to delivery-up or destruction of any infringing goods. If the claimant is not inclined to accept your apology as the end of the matter and decides to sue regardless, you may regret saying sorry, which is perhaps why it happens so rarely. Do take advice- a lawyer can often help you manage and settle a dispute without Court proceedings being commenced.

One final note:

Whatever service you are looking for, Fashion Rider always recommends you do your research and consider all your options.

If you’re still unsure, don’t forget Fashion Rider is here to help. Please don’t hesitate in getting in contact and let us take the stress out of it for you. Also if there are any different areas we can help in just let us know.

What is your experience of creating online content?

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