Copyright Explained: I May Copy It, Right?


With blogging comes great responsibilty. You define the content of your weblog and you carry the full responsibility for every word you’ve published online. More than that, you are responsible for comments in your posts. To make sure you fulfill your legal obligations, it’s important to know, what you, as blogger, may or should do; and you have to know, how to achieve this. After all, the ignorance of the law does not make one exempt from compliance thereof.

From the legal point of view, Copyright in Web is often considered as the grey area; as such it’s often misunderstood and violated – mostly simply because bloggers don’t know, what laws they have to abide and what issues they have to consider. In fact, copyright myths are common, as well as numerous copyright debates1 in the Web.

That’s time to put facts straight. In this post we’ve collected the most important facts, articles and resources related to copyright issues, law and blogging. We’ve also put together most useful tools and references you can use dealing with plagiarism.

You don’t have to read the whole article, you can read a brief overview of the key-points in the beginning of the post. Let’s take a look.

Copyright Explained: I May Copy It, Right?

Copyright in the Web: An Overview

  1. Copyright applies to the Web.
  2. Your work is protected under copyright as soon as it’s created and protected for your lifetime, plus 70 years.
  3. Copyright expires. When copyright expires, the work becomes public domain.
  4. Ideas can’t be copyrighted, only the result tangible expression of the idea can. (updated)
  5. You may use logos and trademarks in your works.
  6. You may use copyrighted material under the “fair use” doctrine.
  7. You may quote only limited portions of work. You may publish excerpts, not whole articles.
  8. You have to ask author’s permission to translate his/her article.
  9. The removal of the copyrighted material doesn’t remove the copyright infringement.
  10. If something looks copyrighted, you should assume it is. (updated)
  11. Advertising protected material without an agreement is illegal.
  12. You may not always delete or modify your visitors’ comments.
  13. User generated content is the property of the users.
  14. Copyright is violated by using information, not by charging for it.
  15. Getting explicit permission can save you a lot of trouble.

What is Copyright?

  • Copyright is a set of exclusive rights regulating the use of a particular expression of an idea or information. At its most general, it is literally “the right to copy” an original creation. In most cases, these rights are of limited duration. The symbol for copyright is ©, and in some jurisdictions may alternatively be written as either (c) or (C).” [Wikipedia: Copyright2]
  • Copyrightable works include literary works such as articles, stories, journals, or computer programs, pictures and graphics as well as recordings.
  • “Copyright has two main purposes, namely the protection of the author’s right to obtain commercial benefit from valuable work, and more recently the protection of the author’s general right to control how a work is used.” [10 Big Myths about copyright explained5437363432211563]
  • “Copyright may subsist in creative and artistic works (e.g. books, movies, music, paintings, photographs, and software) and give a copyright holder the exclusive right to control reproduction or adaptation of such works for a certain period of time (historically a period of between 10 and 30 years depending on jurisdiction, more recently the life of the author plus several decades).” [Wikipedia: Intellectual Property4]

Copyright in the Web

  • Copyright applies to the Web. Copyright laws apply to all materials in the Web. All web documents, images, source code etc. are copyrighted.
  • Copyright protects the rights of owners. “Owners have exclusive rights to make copies, create derivative works, distribute, display and perform works publicly. Certain artists have rights of integrity and attribution (moral rights) in original works of art or limited edition prints (200 or fewer).” [Copyright in Cyberspace5]
  • Everything created privately after April 1, 1989 is copyrighted “automatically” and protected for your lifetime, plus 70 years. “In U.S. almost everything created privately and originally after April 1, 1989 is copyrighted and protected “automatically”. Explicit copyright is not necessary. The default you should assume for other people’s works is that they are copyrighted and may not be copied unless you know otherwise. There are some old works that lost protection without notice, but frankly you should not risk it unless you know for sure.” [10 Big Myths about copyright explained5437363432211563, Copyright Office Basics7]
  • Your work is protected under copyright as soon as it’s created. No record or registration with the U.S. Copyright office is required for this protection. [12 Important U.S. Laws4233288]
  • You don’t have to register the copyright, but you probably should. “The reason for this, under the US Copyright Act, is that registration of the copyright within ninety (90) days of publication (or before infringement takes place) is necessary to enable the copyright owner to receive what are referred to as “statutory damages.” [Copyright: Know The Facts9]
  • Copyright expires. According to the Berne Convention, the copyright perod lasts at least the life of the author plus 50 years after his/her death. For photography, the Berne Convention sets a minimum term of 25 years from the year the photograph was created, and for cinematography the minimum is 50 years after first showing, or 50 years after creation if it hasn’t been shown within 50 years after the creation. This applies to any country that has signed the Berne Convention, and these are just the minimum periods of protection. [What is Copyright?3027221310, Wikipedia11]
  • When copyright expires, the work becomes public domain. “Basically, any writing that is no longer protected by copyright is in the public domain.” [Copyright Essentials12]
  • Copyright hasn’t expired if the copyright date isn’t correct. “If a copyright statement reads, “© Copyright 1998, 1999 John Smith.”, it does not mean that John Smith’s copyright expired in 2000. The dates in the copyright statement refer to the dates the material was created and/or modified, but not to the dates the owner’s material will expire and become public domain.” [What is Copyright?3027221310]
  • Ideas can’t be copyrighted. “You must first write the story, because it is your own, original expression of that idea that is protected under law. If you have a brilliant idea for a story, you’d best keep it to yourself until you do.” [Copyright Essentials For Writers14]
  • “The correct form for a notice is
    “Copyright [dates] by [author/owner]”. You can use C in a circle © instead of “Copyright” but “(C)” has never been given legal force. The phrase “All Rights Reserved” is not required. [10 Big Myths about copyright explained5437363432211563]

You May…

  • You may use copyrighted material.Fair use is a doctrine in United States copyright law that allows limited use of copyrighted material without requiring permission from the rights holders, such as use for scholarship or review. It provides for the legal, non-licensed citation or incorporation of copyrighted material in another author’s work under a four-factor balancing test16. It is based on free speech rights provided by the First Amendment to the US Constitution. [Wikipedia: Fair Use17]
  • You may use materials that are not subject to copyright. “Apart from facts and ideas there are many other classes of materials that can not be protected under the Copyright Law. Those materials include names, familiar symbols, listings of ingredients or contents, short phrases, titles, slogans and procedures (notice that some of those materials might be protected by trademark, though).” [Copyright Law: 10 Do’s and Don’ts18]
  • You may use logos and trademarks in your works. Commenting on some facts or reporting about a company, you can use its logo under a “nominative fair use”. [Copyright Law: 12 Do’s and Don’ts19]
  • You may publish excerpts, not whole articles. “If you want to share someone else’s content with your own audience, just quote a brief excerpt, and provide proper attribution with a link to the source, but don’t republish the entire article without permission. It will save you a lot of trouble down the road. This is a fairly standard practice on popular blogs.” [Copyright and Intellectual Property5620]
  • You may comment upon and report about copyrighted material. “The “fair use” exemption to (U.S.) copyright law allows commentary, parody, news reporting, research and education about copyrighted works without the permission of the author.” [10 Big Myths about copyright explained5437363432211563]
  • You may not always quote copyrighted content. Depending on the copyrighted statement, the owners of the material may forbid the copying and distribution of articles or its parts. [What is Copyright?3027221310]
  • You may quote only limited portions of work. “Under the fair use doctrine of the U.S. copyright statute, it is permissible to use limited portions of a work including quotes, for purposes such as commentary, criticism, news reporting, and scholarly reports.” [Copyright Explained23]
  • You may use the de minimis principle. “Copyright isn’t concerned with very little things. It does not protect so-called de minimis works, the classic examples of which are titles (such as The Da Vinci Code) and newspaper headlines (such as Small earthquake in Chile, not many killed); nor does copyright prevent “insubstantial copying” from a work which is protected by copyright. Unfortunately it is often difficult to decide whether a work is really de minimis, or an example of copying insubstantial.” [10 Things About Copyright24]

You Should…
Bloggers’ Rights and Duties

  • Ignorance of the Law does not make one exempt from compliance thereof. You carry the full responsibility for everything you publish in you weblog. Using protected work, make sure you fulfill your legal obligations.
  • Be aware of your responsibility. Check your facts, consider the implications, control the comments, give credit where credit is due, disclose professional relationships, disclose sponsored posts, avoid “blackhat” methods. [10 Rules for Responsible Blogging25]
  • Make it easy to distinguish paid and editorial content. “Never claim that you are an objective, unbiased source if you are being paid to provide information. Always make it easy for your readers to distinguish between advertising and editorial content.” [12 Important U.S. Laws Every Blogger Needs To Know26]
  • You should ask author’s permission to translate his/her article. According to the Berne Convention, “Authors of literary and artistic works protected by this Convention shall enjoy the exclusive right of making and of authorizing the translation of their works throughout the term of protection of their rights in the original works.” Therefore you need a permission to translate an article into another language. [What is Copyright?3027221310]
  • You should not present stolen content. “The law does not provide protection for federal crimes or intellectual property violations, meaning that you can potentially be found contributorily liable if this type of behavior takes place on your site.” [12 Important U.S. Laws4233288]
  • You should use copyrighted material only if you have explicit permission from the author to do so (or if you make fair use of it). Copyright infrigement is possible even if the credit to the author is given. [Copyright Law: 12 Do’s and Dont’s3529]

Things To Be Aware Of

  • Freeware doesn’t belong to you. “Graphic images and fonts provided for “free” are not public domain. The ownership of this material remains within the creator of the material. You may use them if you comply with the owner’s terms and conditions.” [What is Copyright?3027221310]
  • Getting explicit permission can save you a lot of trouble. If you are sued for copyright violation, you must admit to the infringement, and then hope that the judge or jury agrees with your arguments. It’s faster and safer to just ask permission. [Copyright on the Web31]
  • Copyright is violated by using information, not by charging for it. “Whether you charge can affect the damages awarded in court, but that’s main difference under the law. It’s still a violation if you give it away — and there can still be serious damages if you hurt the commercial value of the property.” [10 Big Myths about copyright explained5437363432211563]
  • User generated content is the property of the users. “The fact that you do not own the user-driven content on your site can create a number of headaches for bloggers, such as an obligation to remove a comment whenever the author requests.” [12 Important U.S. Laws4233288]
  • If you use protected material, the new work doesn’t belong to you. “Work derived from copyrighted works is a copyright violation. Making of what are called “derivative works” — works based or derived from another copyrighted work — is the exclusive province of the owner of the original work.” [10 Big Myths about copyright explained5437363432211563]
  • The removal of the copyrighted material doesn’t remove the copyright infringement. Once the copyright is violated, the case is created – it doesn’t matter, whether the protected material is currently on the Web or not.” [Copyright Law: 12 Do’s and Dont’s3529]
  • If something looks copyrighted, you should assume it is. “It is true that a notice strengthens the protection, by warning people, and by allowing one to get more and different damages, but it is not necessary. ” [10 Big Myths about copyright explained5437363432211563]
  • Advertising protected material without an agreement is illegal. “It’s up to the owner to decide if they want the free ads or not. If they want them, they will be sure to contact you. Don’t rationalize whether it hurts the owner or not, ask them.” [10 Big Myths about copyright explained5437363432211563]

Grey Area

  • Nobody really knows if linking is always allowed. “When linking to illegal or infringing copyrighted content the law of linking liability is currently considered a grey area. But if you have an ordinary web site, and linking is not going to bypass some security, or payment system such as advertising, and there’s no information anywhere about the site not wanting you to link in and no reason to believe they don’t want it, linking should be very safe.” [Links And Law38, Linking Rights39, Wiki: Link40]
  • It is reasonable to provide terms of service for comments. “Posters should be informed that they are responsible for their own postings. The newsroom should consider advising readers that the newsroom does not control or monitor what third parties post, and that readers occasionally may find comments on the site to be offensive or possibly inaccurate. Readers should be informed that responsibility for the posting lies with the poster himself/herself and not with the newsroom or its affiliated sites.” [Dialogue or Diatribe?41]
  • You may not always delete or modify your visitors’ comments. “You should never treat comments as though you own them by manipulating them or deleting them without having included a terms of service which gives you permission to do so. Consider that if you are allowing anonymous posts you will have no way of verifying the true owner of a comment when someone emails you asking for you to take a comment down. Consequently, you should make sure to at least collect basic identifying information before allowing someone to comment or post on your site.” [12 Important U.S. Laws4233288]

How to React to Plagiarism?

Tools and Services

  • Free Legal Forms for Graphic Design
  • Copyright Flow Chart47
    Flowchart for determining when U.S. Copyrights in fixed works expire.

Open Content Licenses

Related Articles

  • Call for a Blogger’s Code of Conduct50
    “In a discussion the other night at O’Reilly’s ETech conference, we came up with a few ideas about what such a code of conduct might entail. These thoughts are just a work in progress, and hopefully a spur for further discussion.”
  • Copyright: A Seemingly Shifting Target, Q&A51
    Frequently Asked Questions Guide to copyright issues as they apply in the world of digital video production, post production and distribution. By Douglas Spotted Eagle.
  • What is Copyright Protection?52
    This page covers the basic definitions regarding copyrights. It has been written using the Berne Union for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Property (Berne Convention) as the main bibliographical source.
  • 10 Things You Need to Know Before You Blog53
    A list of important aspects to keep in mind if you are a blogger plus dozens of references to related articles.
  • 10 Big Myths about copyright explained5437363432211563
    An attempt to answer common myths about copyright seen on the net and cover issues related to copyright and USENET/Internet publication.
  • 12 Important U.S. Laws Every Blogger Needs to Know55
    This article highlights twelve of the most important US laws when it comes to blogging and provide some simple and straightforward tips for safely navigating them.
  • Copyright and Intellectual Property5620
    While some people take issue with the concept of intellectual property and believe that all content should be free, I don’t count myself among them. In fact, for the most part I consider the anti-copyright fanatics rather juvenile and intellectually immature. By Steve Pavlina.
  • Poynter Online – Copyright Issues and Answers57
    An extensive list of resources about copyright. Subject headings include: Definition of Copyright, U.S. Copyright Office, Copyright Websites, Fair Use and more.
  • Podcasting Legal Guide58
    The purpose of this guide is to provide you with a general roadmap of some of the legal issues specific to podcasting.
  • Copyright Law: 12 Do’s and Dont’s59
    12 Do’s and Dont’s that will clarify what you can and what you can not do as an online publisher.
  • 10 Things Webmasters Should Know About … Copyright60
    This short article explains the key points of copyright law – those which should be familiar to every webmaster.
  • Copyright Essentials for Writers – Res Ipsa Loquitor61
    This article deals primarily with copyright law; however, in a broader sense it deals with ethical issues every writer should carefully consider. By Holly Jahangiri
  • Copyright: get to know the facts62
    If something’s valuable to you then you need to protect it. Copyright exists for that purpose, but don’t assume you have it, says Stephen Nipper.
  • A brief intro to copyright63
    This document is here because many people read my original article on copyright myths without knowing very much about what copyright is to begin with. This article is not about to teach you all about copyright, though there are some decent sites out there with lots of details.
  • The Developer’s Guide To Copyright Law64
    In this post the basics of copyright law are discussed. This sets the stage for further parts in which software licensing is discussed.

Related Resources

  • EFF: Bloggers65
    EFF’s (Electronic Frontier Foundation) goal is to give you a basic roadmap to the legal issues you may confront as a blogger, to let you know you have rights, and to encourage you to blog freely with the knowledge that your legitimate speech is protected.
  • A Fair(y) Use Tale66
    Stanford Center for Internet and Society published a documentary film, in which copyright issues are explained.
  • Copyright Committee Website67
    Articles related to using copyrighted materials, fair use, getting permission, plagiarism, copyright law, what copyright protects, Public Domain and Copyright Duration.
  • Good Copy Bad Copy68
    A documentary about the current state of copyright and culture.
  • Crash Course in Copyright69
    An overview of Copyright basics.
  • U.S. Copyright Office70: Web-site with extensive information about copyright, including copyright basics, current legislation and the copyright law itself.
  • Stanford Copyright & Fair Use71
    Copyright and Fair Use in an extensive overview.
  • Using Copyright Notices72
    Information fact sheet – exploring website copyright, design ideas, registration advice and specific considerations that apply to website designers.
  • EFF: Legal Guide for Bloggers73
    This guide compiles a number of FAQs designed to help you understand your rights and, if necessary, defend your freedom.
  • QuestionCopyright.org74
    Promoting public understanding of the history and effects of copyright, and encouraging the development of alternatives to information monopolies.


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Vitaly Friedman loves beautiful content and doesn’t like to give in easily. Vitaly is writer, speaker, author and editor-in-chief of Smashing Magazine. He runs responsive Web design workshops, online workshops and loves solving complex performance problems in large companies. Get in touch.

  1. 1

    what about copyleft?

    • 2

      Copyleft is a form of copyright. It applies copyright law in such a way as to allow people to copy and modify derivatives of the original work whilst making sure these freedoms are maintained.

      So if I were to copyleft a piece of software you would be able to use that as you wished – so long as you yourself applied copyleft to the software, allowing others to benefit from your work.

  2. 3

    nice to know ;)

  3. 4

    Vitaly Friedman & Sven Lennartz

    July 7, 2007 2:45 am

    Thanks, Lorelle. Thanks, orcmid. We’ve updated the post.

  4. 5

    What about RSS? Can I legally aggregate RSS feeds into an uber feed and redistribute? What if it contains a media enclosure (audio/video) – can I embed the media? Seems fine, since this is basically what aggregators do.

  5. 6

    Jordan, there’s no need to be rude. Whether you find this helpful or not, others do.

    Thank you for this comprehensive set of resources. As a recent victim of intellectual property theft, I’m very interested in what the law says and what goes unsaid; and thanks to you all, I will certainly be better equipped to defend my work in the future.

  6. 7

    Excellent list and thanks for the inclusion.

    I have a small issue with “If something looks copyrighted, you should assume it is.”

    I believe the better premise is to believe everything is copyrighted on the web and go from there. In fact, if it is original content, it is copyrighted by default.

    If you want to use it, then ask. Check the copyright policy and licenses to see if you can or cannot use the content and then ask the owner if you can’t find the copyright policy.

    But never assume anything. It is copyrighted. It’s up to the owner of the content to set the limits of that copyright, and that limit might be “use this freely” or it might be “do not use this in any way without permission”.

    Let’s kill the assumptions and make it a mandatory policy that everything is copyrighted until you are informed otherwise. Much stronger stance. :D

  7. 8

    funkimama, aggregating copyrighted RSS feeds without explicit permission is a copyright violation, plain and simple.

    Also, nofollows on comment URLs suck. :)

  8. 9

    Sherwin Techico

    July 7, 2007 1:50 am

    Thanks for the write-up. It’s truly educational and provides a great resource. Right on.

  9. 10

    1. There’s a bug in the quick summary. Item (4) says “Ideas can’t be copyrighted, but the result of the idea can.” Result is too vague. “Expression” is better, and “tangible expression” is better still. These are terms of art, but the linked materials you have should provide more detail.

    2. With regard to the question about Copyleft: The discussion of copyright applies and you’ll notice that careful users of copyleft include Copyright notices. In the case of the Free Software Foundation (the home of GNU), it is generally necessary to transfer the copyright in contributions to the FSF and the work will be distributed under FSF copyright.

    The difference in Copyleft (e.g., the GPL 3.0) is in the fact that there is a blanket license available that you can rely on without obtaining direct permission, so long as you comply with all terms of the license. To make any use of the work that is not provided for under the license, you do need to contact the copyright holder and arrange separate permission for that.

  10. 11

    Boring. Why are you posting this stuff? No one is really interested in it. You should stick to design and let the experts do their job.

  11. 12

    nice try but honestly, you’ve gotten a lot of it wrong–too much to list here in a comment.

    in short–in VERY short–copyright varies widely from medium to medium. music is different from printed books is different from magazines, etc. there’s a long, convoluted list of exceptions and assignment cases.

    also–and I’m assuming you’re an American, because Americans usually assume their law is the world’s–copyright can be very different depending on the country something is “copyrighted” in.

    i’d add some sort of caveat to your article at this point stating that it may not, in fact, be accurate.

  12. 13

    This is a great article, i’ve been looking for something like this for some time now.


  13. 14

    The thing to remember about copyright, is that is it only as powerful and important as the owner has money to throw at lawyers.

    With enough money, you can find violations everywhere to bully anyone you want. Without money, you can’t do much even if you get ripped off.

    IP is total bullshit.

  14. 15

    AWESOME post! Thanx a lot! It’d be really helpful!

  15. 16

    another great post. right now to many site that just copy cat another site

  16. 17

    Wow, nice post. It feels like I see copyright infringement everyday.

    Someday a post like this might open the flood gates of potential lawsuits out there. I’ve posted information on the web in previous years after obtaining explicit approval or creating it; only to find it copied to other sites. The viral nature of the internet along with increases in technology have made it increasingly easy for others to borrow or steal another’s work.

    This is not to say that I believe most people do it maliciously, in fact I believe most do it because of ignorance. Again- great post.

  17. 18

    Great post, but so many typos!

  18. 19

    As a writer, I’ve seen everything from my movie reviews to hotel reviews (complete with my photos) reproduced in full on other sites. This is a great post and should be read by everyone who blogs or writes online.

    Yes, laws vary from country to country and even within mediums, but basically, if it isn’t yours, you probably shouldn’t reproduce huge chunks of it or try to pass it off as your own work.

  19. 20

    Website copyright is really important if you’re trying to protect your content. I’ve been through the process many times. Here’s an article that might help other’s do the same; How to copyright your website in six easy steps

  20. 21

    Definitely, another great post!

  21. 22

    Tejvan - net writing

    July 9, 2007 3:25 am

    A very comprehensive guide. There is something about the internet that gives people a different opinion of copyright.

  22. 23

    I have a question. Can I use images from flickr which are publicly available and publish those from my site. With proper credits to owner of the images of course ?

  23. 24

    Great article, I can see a lot of work went into this!

  24. 25

    Thanks so much for that article – I read about it on Katherine Tyrrell’s blog.
    Copyright is such a sensitive issue and quite often you read statements like “it’s a gray area” meaning “you can do as you like” – so I really enjoyed reading your very concise information. Thanks again!

  25. 26

    Djurdjica Selec

    July 9, 2007 6:36 pm

    Now that’s an article that makes my life easier.really.
    Smash on!

  26. 27

    Ok I have a few questions which we are discussing at blogcatalog

    Great article especially the ‘You may not always delete or modify your visitors’ comments.’ one as it amounts to ‘freedom of speech’ I should think. So deleting someones comment who has ‘flamed’ your post is in fact against the law.

    What about this one ‘User generated content is the property of the users.’

    Does that mean that when they make a comment it becomes copywrited and you have to ask the commentor for permission to use their comment.

    Or this one ‘You have to ask author’s permission to translate his/her article.’

    So you have a blog where you have guest bloggers, you also use a plugin to translate your blog, do you need to ask the guest blogger for permission to translate their post?

    Another one which links to bloggers.

    You sign up for auction ads and display the items on yor pages.

    But in fact the photos and wording of the items must be copywrited to the person who added the items to the ebay, is ths not linking to copywrited material and knowingly doing so.

  27. 28

    See if i want to copy the Html code written in some website to my post. Will I have to change the HTML code or just come up with new language.

  28. 29

    Michael Montgomery

    July 11, 2007 4:57 am

    Thanks for the article, and good job as usual.

    “Copyright hasn’t expired if the copyright date isn’t correct.” Excellent point, since the question behind this point never occurred to me.

    I wrote on a similar topic here, if anyone’s interested:
    Copyright Primer for Designers.

  29. 30

    “You may not always delete or modify your visitors’ comments.”

    I don’t quite understand this. When people post links to websites, spam, flame, racial slurs, etc., we “may not always” delete them?

    In what instances can we then?

  30. 31

    This is an excellent concise explanation of do’s and dont’s of Copyright.

    Can I translate to Spanish, and post the 15 points, of course linking back to this original?

  31. 32

    Trademarks have nothing to do with copyright law. And “copyrighted” is not a word.

  32. 33

    I probably would have read this if the top portion of the content wasn’t squeezed so much by the ads taking up that space.

  33. 34

    Christopher Swift

    July 16, 2007 8:16 am

    My guess is that the above relates to US copyright law. Is this correct? And if so, isn’t the situation made vastly more complex by the fact that the corpus of copyright laws around the world differ to some extent, country-by-country.

    I seem to remember the US passing a law called something imperious like “The Universal-Everything-Everywhere Copyright Law” that (they feel) applies to everyone regardless of which country they are living in.

    If one lives in, say, Norway, and abides by all their copyright laws, can they be prosecuted by the US for violating one of their laws? My assumption (based on I don’t know what), is “no, they cannot”.

  34. 35

    Michelle Gartner

    July 20, 2007 8:42 am

    Really good article- I am debating putting a link on my blog Smart not Cheap regarding it… My niche is thrift and saving money- so it doesn’t really tie into my posts. On the other hand- I bet 25% or more of my readers blog themsleves and are pretty much in the dark about acceptible usage of other people’s content on the web. I think anyone that blogs should at least think about what they are linking to or copying, but I know some bloggers don’t care. Great stuff- Michelle Smart not Cheap

  35. 36

    thanks….i have searched for website copyright law during last 4 months….but i didnt get any clear pcture of it….sometimes artcles make me puzzled & befuddled….now i realise & clear it by your blog…..many thanks…..

  36. 37

    Thanks! but I tend to agree with “cdog”.

    Becuase i think the big companies are in violation of copyright all over. So arguably the copytright is total BS!

    For example, unless I have sign at my front door rel=”nofollow”, does this give you permission to break into my house?? I guess you get the point.

  37. 38

    This is just an article, to fill up space. The people who don’t care just use and violate everything. There is no stop. These are laws just to stop and terrorize, those who want to do things legally.
    No practical importance of such articles, They just fill up space on website.

    One thing, not covered here.
    How would one (say “a”) prove that a certain logo is made by him/her. If someone else ( say “b” ) created a replica of it and published it on the web.
    Do software today have an automated functionality for this ?
    I don’t think so. It’s totally a friendship among the governments and people in the upper layer. That is what copyrights are for.

  38. 39

    Thanks for this information.

  39. 40

    Hi there,
    this article is realy great. Great Job!
    Can I use it on my blog ???

  40. 41

    Thanks man for this wonderful job on a very difficult topic to understand.

    There are many who say they have read your articles have many things for take-away’s yet they post questions that are included in your content. Since I have several things that I’m using on my websites to not fall into this trap I take several sets of information for clearity, completeness and recompile with my own words and keywords too. From what I have read that would fall under “Fair Use”. However, should I want to make a direct relationship with another entity I would ask permission to avoid falling into a trap.!
    Thank you so much for the understanding I have been searching for!

  41. 42

    I seek to get two aspects of this clarified.

    (1) Do I read correctly: Whatever I put on the Web is automatically copyrighted, without me explicitly doing anything “formal”?

    (2) The “de minimis” thang: Am I allowed to copy-and-paste a cute little blurb or a funny little poem someone put up on his blog or in a discussion forum, into MY blog or MY post in another forum — while attributing it to the author? It is minimally small, but it is in its entirety. Say, a four line ditty.

  42. 43

    What about if I copy an article into my website and at the end of the article, I put there “Courtesy of _____”, is this possible? Is this still a copyright violation?

  43. 44

    I have a doubt . Can we create our own fonts from default fonts like Myriad Pro . I have modified the fonts , and now looks like another.

    Can i make/use it ?

  44. 45

    Can I have permission to link to this work for educational use only?

  45. 46

    in terms of tutorials…..

    is that going against the copyright laws or?

  46. 47

    I have a quick question… I was wondering if it is violating copyright law to look up lyrics on the internet? Please please let me know…

  47. 48

    @jaaz Fonts are a notable exception. Protection does not apply to the visual forms of the alphabet. The reasoning is that it would effectively restrict the use of the alphabet itself and by extension, language. The names given to fonts are protected. That’s why type foundries were/are able to publish their own versions, obviously derivatives, under different names. Code used to generate digital fonts is considered separate from the characters and is protected.

  48. 49

    @deborah No, but downloading or printing them would be, and certainly posting them on a website would be unless the site is paying royalties. ASCAP probably has people browsing for lyrics – I know someone who once had a job walking through malls listening for stores playing the radio or CDs. Then ASCAP would contact them with a settlement offer.

  49. 50

    This intrigued me: # You may not always delete or modify your visitors’ comments.
    # User generated content is the property of the users.

    Previously, I have left feedback on some items from an online shop and they deleted them because they were negative. Are they allowed to only accept positive comments?

  50. 51

    May I use the picture from the begining of the article for a school presentation? It is on copyright, and this picutre I think fits in perfectly.

    Thank you

  51. 52

    Hi Vitaly & Sven ,
    Someone has coppied my design, concept, some of the art works as well as my website copy from my website .
    can someone tell me how can I take this site down? I have already sent them a mail but they haven’t done anything yet. Please advice.

  52. 53

    Nice article, very informative at least I know the boundaries now, funny I came across this article just after reading one on “Generation Y” on wikipedia which looks at how our generation has a shared benefit approach where no one loses, I believe though my view may change, that copyright laws will have to be more flexible in the future with the growing cult culture open source, and free to distribute content and everything else, as we all now DRM just doesn’t work and how do you stop the masses from blue-toothing song after song to each other. Fact is the technology of our generation out strips copyright law’s ability to prosecute and as the fascination with sharing grows rigid copyright enforcement dwindles, what next. Take a look at China and how the churn out counterfeit products by the masses back home here in South Africa, everything is available for cheap or free, you name it Os’s, music, DVD’s, clothing. Also on the one end I have observed there are people who genuinely can’t afford some of these products and resort to copying then ofcourse there’s the share addicts, you can’t sue every teenager on the globe and if you sue a poor person good luck in getting your money back. Okay I have said my ZAR 2c worth. New generation share=old generation buys original!

  53. 54

    Helge-Kristoffer Wang

    October 18, 2009 8:00 am

    Good work on this article, as said before; Very informative.

    May I translate this into Norwegian and then post a reference link to this article? Please e-mail me. :)

  54. 55

    The article’s title should start “U.S. Copyright Explained”, as it has no relevance to any other country in the world.

  55. 56

    State Labor Laws

    June 18, 2010 4:12 am

    This website provides me a lot of information regarding state labor laws which is definitely quite helpful. I really find it easy to read such data on the net.
    State Labor Laws

  56. 57

    May I use your image that’s in the article (May I Copy it, Right?) to use on a school website to inform students?

  57. 58

    Hello dude,i liking Your New homepage very a lot. achieve u allow suggestion for my site? thanks for A New attention

  58. 60

    I likes Ones style guys

  59. 61

    Great information. I found it very helpful!

  60. 62

    I need help what with photo shoots for magazine ,Can i use it?I want to put into my collage ,I will give a credit and i will not make money from it of course .It’s photo from main page of the magazine

  61. 63

    Thank you for an incredible amount of well-documented information. I had questions about using excerpts from other websites. I have no evil intent. The excerpts are clearly linked back to the original post. At times I am incorporating information from different blogs to provide different points of view on a topic. I also am trying to provide a comprehensive understanding of a topic.

    What is interesting is that what you did speaks even clearer that what you said (wrote). Your use of quotes/information from other sources tells me what I really need to know. You have brought all these resources together to provide useful information to people; you clearly mark the source and don’t claim credit for others work. Your intent is not to rip off other people.

    This is what I assumed was appropriate, but I wasn’t sure. Some people have told me you can’t copy anything.

    The next thing I need to figure out is how much can you use in an excerpt. Thanks again for your valuable information.

  62. 64

    Great resource. Not to nitpick, but I would be careful about your wording. It is not entirely correct to say that it is copyright infringement to use information, not to charge for it (#14). As you have already pointed in #4, the ideas underlying a copyrighted work are not protectable, and the First Amendment dictates that laws should not restrict the free exchange of information. It is copyright infringement to use someone’s copyrighted expression, not the information they presented in a copyrighted work.

    The point you’re making is definitely correct – it is not necessary to profit from copyright infringement in order to be liable for it.

    Also, the blanket statement that you can use logos and trademarks in your works (#5) is misleading. In certain limited circumstances you may be able to use someone else’s logo and/or trademark, but nominative fair use of trademarks and fair use of copyrighted works (e.g. an original logo design) are both very slippery concepts. It is better to err on the side of a caution and consult an attorney before using other people’s intellectual property.

  63. 65

    This article have been helpful to anyone when it comes to copyright. The author gave some useful and helpful information for people like me to understand.

  64. 66

    I have a bunch of old stuff my father (who is now deceased) wrote from back in the 70s and even some more recent stuff. I have binders of it I saved and much of it is funny and good.

    I would like to scan it, post it in a blog and dedicate it to him, while also giving him credit, being most transparent about it.. Most of the stuff is funny poetry based on politics and current events.

    So I was wondering how that works or if it’s even legal to post nothing but someone else’s works on one site? (Even while giving full credit to him). The purpose is to share easily with others (like family) that I know will appreciate it, preserve his memory, etc.


  65. 67

    I am writing a non-fiction book and would like to include an obituary that was very creatively written. It has gone viral on the Internet. I’m not sure what the rules on obituaries are. Would I contact the newspaper, or the person who wrote it?

  66. 68

    Copyright laws are becoming more stringent now a days ,so it takes a lot of awareness and one should know the consequences on breaking the rules. You can seek guidance from the copyright attorneys or can consult any other legal firms.


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