Copyright and content sourcing online – where do you stand?
Times have changed dramatically in the era of the internet when it comes to the availability of information on just about any topic imaginable. Sourcing online content as a basis for further publication in the public domain has its own set of rules and criteria to consider.
Many authors of published works flaunt the key parameters in this area. In many instances they are never called out on the issue. But where do you stand?
The content could be the publication, display and/or performance of the written word, the spoken word, music, photography, art, films, you name it.
Copyright by general definition is a protectable and assignable legal right given to the original creator of a work. The work is the creator’s intellectual property and his or her sole ownership shall be protected by the law for a set period of time. The creator can authorise others to use their work. Usually there is a fee involved together with appropriate quality control and acknowledgements. Publication is allowed then, often for a fixed period.
If you are serious about publication of material content you have discovered by research online, then compliance with copyright around such content can be a minefield requiring legal input to ensure no breaches occur. Saying it was inadvertent is not really acceptable these days. So often there are unfortunate legal, personal and financial consequences. Content sourcing should be as important an aspect of any publication as the actual writing, collating or performance of that finished work. Originality is hard to source but must be discovered and acknowledged.
What do you then do to protect yourself from breaches of copyright both in New Zealand and worldwide? Copyright as a legal concept is “buried” away in a work. Its true source is often hard to find. You will only be using parts, often small, of other copyrighted works but they must be authorised and consented. If you cannot find the original source, you must consider what acknowledgements you can make. To protect from a breach, you should obtain legal advice around the specific types and forms of copyright infringement. You should assume all internet online content you find is copyrighted.
Those seeking to protect their copyright often employ search engines to check for similar works online. These scans may be intermittent or continuous. Breaches of copyright start and continue from the date of your publication. The absence of a written infringement notice by the original creator does not give rise to an assumption of having avoided such breaches.
So, wherever you stand on the sourcing and use of online content, please beware. The consequences of not doing your due diligence here could be very unpleasant.