Is it Okay if I Borrow This?
Written by Kimberly Mason
Information policy has a direct effect on copyright matters when dealing with the Internet. Often, people have knowledge of and adhere to copyright laws for books and other written documents, yet many do not have knowledge of copyright laws for items on the Internet. This lack of knowledge could be a result of improper information policies being available for Internet users, or users may just be ignoring the policy. Copyright laws are written to protect the originators of the information and should be adhered to regarding any intellectual property.
Copyright laws for information located on the Internet come in many different forms. Types of copyrighted information range from periodicals, pictures, and graphics, to music and other intellectual products. As more generations use the Internet, it must be understood that not everyone is computer savvy, nor does everyone have knowledge of proper computer etiquette. The notion of copyrighted information on the Internet may be hard for the older generation to grasp as they may not have been exposed to some of the more current information policies on copyrights. The lack of exposure to the information polices may result in these individuals harmlessly “borrowing” information from the Internet to put in a document they are working on, not realizing that they could face legal actions. With instructors allowing students to use the Internet to perform research for papers and presentations, younger generations benefit from supplementary exposure to copyright information policies. Students typically are instructed that they must cite from where they retrieved their information.
Even with knowledge of copyright laws, sometimes clarification is needed. This poses the question of where to go to find out if a document or photo is copyrighted? When looking for the policies for a website, they are typically found at the bottom of the site under links for Terms and Conditions or Legal Policies. Surprisingly, websites such as Target.com have Terms & Conditions that clearly lay out how the information you access can be used or not used:
All content included on the Site, such as text, graphics, logos, images, audio clips, video, data, music, software, and other material (collectively “Content”) is owned or licensed property of Target or its suppliers or licensors and is protected by copyright, trademark, patent, or other proprietary rights. The collection, arrangement, and assembly of all Content on the Site is the exclusive property of Target Brands, Inc. and protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. Target and its suppliers and licensors expressly reserve all intellectual property rights in all Content.
Images will typically have the copyright symbol © next to the photo, if they are copyrighted. Regardless of what many people think, not all images on the Internet are free. As the Internet becomes a major component in advertising one’s business, professionals such as photographers must post their products on their website to attract potential customers, but they do not want their work stolen. Some people may think that if they give the photographer credit then it is okay to borrow the image. This would still be considered copyright infringement. If there is a strong need to use an image, the permission of the photo owner should be sought and received. Some photographers may say yes because they need the exposure for their work, while others may say no and reject the request. The ultimate decision is up to the photographer (Hawkins, 2013).
Already having knowledge about copyright policies for photos and published articles, I have recently learned that work documents or training manuals should be copyrighted as well. One of my co-workers wrote a training manual on grants and emailed it to a colleague in an effort to help her perform new job duties. Several weeks later, my co-worker saw that her training manual was provided as a job aid on the grant department’s website. This infuriated my co-worker as she was not given any credit for being the creator of the training manual, nor had she been contacted for permission to post the manual on a public website. It should be known by everyone that when you write a document and share it with others you should “include a copyright notice, as well as acknowledgement of contributors if appropriate” (Wikibooks, n.d.). Having this training manual literally stolen could deter my co-worker from using her creative services to help develop and share future training manuals. Had she been contacted, she may have been willing to provide future manuals for digital distribution that could enrich the grant department and others in unquantifiable ways (The Department of Commerce Internet Policy Task Force, 2013, p. iii).
Information policies need to be posted clearly on websites so that individuals who are interested in borrowing information are made aware of their legal obligations to the copyright holder. In some cases individuals who are aware of the copyright policy may still decide to copy information because they have a“who’s going to know?” mentality. Even if no one finds out, it does not make it right. In the cases of copyrighted material, individuals could be forced to take down the image or face lawsuits and have to pay fines for their “borrowing” of information. To be safe, everyone should always be in the mind-frame that all material on the Internet is copyrighted and requires permission before copying it. Copyright holders should be aware that although they have taken the proper steps to protect their information it will continue to be a fight.
Are there any legal ramifications you can enforce if a coworker steals a document or image that you did not copyright?
Hawkins, S. (2013, March 26). The best ways to be sure you’re legally using online photos. Retrieved from http://lifehacker.com/5992419/the-best-ways-to-be-sure-youre-legally-using-online-photos
Target. (2013, September 20). Terms & Conditions. Retrieved from http://www.target.com/spot/terms-conditions#?lnk=fnav_t_spc_2_4
The Department of Commerce Internet Policy Task Force. (2013, July). Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Digital Economy. Retrieved from http://www.uspto.gov/news/publications/copyrightgreenpaper.pdf
Wikibooks. (n.d.). Designing a Training Manual. Retrieved from http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Designing_a_Training_Manual