“But the Internet said….” The Internet revolutionized how people access information. Billions of people around the world have access to information through the web. As with most things related to the Internet, not all that information is accurate. One common myth is that, by merely posting content to the Internet, you are dedicating it to the public and anyone can use it so long as there is no copyright notice with the material. This myth is false.
Copyright – the bundle of rights that protects creative content such as photos, text, music, and website layout – automatically attaches to a work when it is created. The work does not fall into the public domain until the monopoly period for copyright expires (currently, the period lasts until seventy years after the death of the creator). Merely posting something to the Internet without a copyright notice does not deprive the work of copyright protection.
Nonetheless, the myth persists. Fortunately, there are some simple steps business owners can take to avoid having their work infringed by those who mistakenly believe use is permitted. One easy way to help cut down on online infringement is to behave like a copyright owner. A good way to do this is to include a copyright notice on your website. If you create original art to promote your business on your social media pages, include the copyright symbol and the year with your post. Many people recognize that a copyright symbol means they cannot use that material without permission (even if it is on the Internet).
Other tools, such as copyright infringement notices on social media platforms, allow businesses to easily request that the social media platform remove material copied from the business and posted to the social media site by others. Today, those forms are streamlined so that laypeople can easily fill them out and submit them to social media platforms – no lawyer needed. Using copyright notices and existing social media tools can allow businesses to resolve copyright issues in a cost-effective manner.
There are, of course, some situations where substantial infringement occurs and, despite best efforts, cannot be resolved without attorneys. Being proactive by acting as the owner of your copyrighted material, however, will address many issues and allow your business to return its focus on what it does best.