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The internet is not the wild, wild West of copyright law

Let’s say you’re a small-business owner with a website to provide customers information about your product or service. Your site speaks to trends, news items or important developments in your industry. You see on another website that an industry leader posts an informative article or a useful video clip from a tradeshow. Can you reprint or repost that content on your blog?

The safe strategy is to link to the other website, but you hate to send your customers and prospects away from your site. What’s within your legal rights in terms of sharing another website’s content? Simply put, tread carefully.

Original Digital Content Is Copyrighted

Original digital content is protected by the same copyright laws that apply to print media. Most forms of creative expression are subject to copyright protection once they’re in a fixed form, whether that is print or digital.

Here are some tips for complying with copyright laws from Copyrightlaws.com, an online source of copyright education and courses:

  • Ask for permission Creating a standard written permission policy document that can be used for all requests may make sense if you find you regularly want to use others’ content.
  • Consider alternatives The safest thing is to not reproduce copyrighted material. Link to the original source, use the facts from the material without reproducing the full report, or summarize in your own words.
  • Dont change images Receiving permission to use a photo or image in your presentation does not automatically come with permission to alter that image.

In many respects, the internet is all about sharing information. That does not mean copyrighted content can be reused without approval. Play it safe, and if you have questions, reach out to a knowledgeable copyright lawyer.

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