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Wayne State University

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Nov 9 / Isidoro Alastra

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:

CONTENT

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.

(Target.com, 2013)

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.

Discussion question:

Are there any legal ramifications you can enforce if a coworker steals a document or image that you did not copyright?

References

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

5 Comments

  1. Kristina Olsen (Group 1 response) / Nov 14 2013

    Copyright is an ever growing issue. The digital age has had a large impact as it makes images, documents, music, and other forms of media readily accessible to consumers. As Kimberly suggested, there is a need for information policies to be well represented on websites. Pledging ignorance doesn’t help one escape from the consequences of copyright infringement. However, this can be reduced by making copyright policies easily accessible and expressing these policies in a clear, understandable manner. This post does well to highlight the issues of copyright infringement in a professional setting among co-workers.

  2. Rebecca Fort / Nov 14 2013

    Database and other digital licensing agreements make the issue even more confusing. Many of the terms of those agreements are even more limiting than fair use might demand. For example, our library recently “purchased” a DVD for use by a professor, but when it arrived the invoice informed us that we had only “leased” the movie. The terms specified that no portion of it could not be used for any distance learning students or even be taken to any satellite campuses without first receiving written permission from the company.

  3. Joanna Sturgeon / Nov 13 2013

    Kimberly,

    I agree that new technologies such as the internet, mp3s and file-sharing make copyright issues murkier. Even though education efforts are underway, many people don’t seem to understand (or care) that copying files is a violation of IP laws. However, although many people may have a general understanding of copyright laws for print materials, they don’t always find the application of these regulations easy. For example, librarians, educators and students typically are familiar with the concept of “fair use.” However, there seems to be a great deal of confusion about what exactly constitutes fair use. Indeed, the Wayne State University library website offers a great deal of guidance on the issue of copyright and fair use. Of the fifteen publicly available policies,
    two directly address copyright issues/fair use and other policies such as the “Acceptable Use Policy” also contain copyright provisions. It is clear that even PhD. holding faculty members are not expected to understand the specifics of fair use, since the library website refers them to liaison Librarians or the Technology Resource Center for assistance selecting course materials within fair use guidelines. A major flaw in the fair use doctrine is the fact that the criteria that determine fair are rarely concrete. One person’s interpretation of “reasonable and limited portion” of reproduction may be very different from another’s. The guidance that an individual should always try to limit the amount of information as much as possible just to be safe may be legally sound, but impractical. Courts may uphold a greater amount of use in certain situations, but less in other situations. The reasoning behind court decisions is not always clear and
    it is difficult to apply these outcomes to even the most similar circumstances. At my small public library, we often reproduce larger library’s materials in whole (such as guides to e-book downloading). We always give credit to the original source, but I do not think the materials are specified open license. Of course, it is extremely unlikely that the library in issue would
    take issue with this practice. However, even information professionals may sometimes take liberties with educational materials that would technically be in violation of the fair use doctrine.

  4. Kimberly Mason / Nov 13 2013

    Aubrey, thank you for the comment. With us being in college and having been exposed to the concept of copyright policies. Many of us probably go through great efforts to ensure that we are legally using digital information according to the licensing agreements, as you did with your public service announcement. Would anyone happen to know if libraries provide patrons with information regarding copyright policies? This would be very helpful to patrons when they are doing the reference interview with librarians. Not only could the librarian provide them with resources but the proper way to document the resources. Just in case the content creator does not designate what content is available for use.

  5. Aubrey Maynard / Nov 11 2013

    I belong to the Wayne State University National Digital Stewardship Alliance Student Chapter and in 2012 we made a public service announcement video regarding digital preservation of personal photos (available at http://youtu.be/iIoO89QJ6bU). As part of the project, I was tasked with finding music that we could use that was free and legal for our use. It took some time to search through various music sites. In my search, I learned about Creative Commons Licensing and we were able to find music to use for the video. The music that we used was one of a selection that the artist had made available under creative commons licensing. More information on creative commons licensing is available at http://creativecommons.org/. I think that sometimes people will “borrow” content either because they don’t always realize the legal requirements that must be met in order to use something that has been made available on-line as stated in your post or because they don’t think anyone will know that they used someone else’s content and it doesn’t matter. But with the availability of different licensing agreements it can be easier for a content creator to designate what content is available for use, in what ways, and what requires the implicit permission of the content creator to use.

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