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When It’s OK to Copy

Copyright Lines Can Be Blurred by Social Media, Video Sharing and Affiliate Programs

With the advent of photo sharing websites like Flickr and video sharing sites like YouTube, the lines of copyright have blurred slightly. These types of websites have links that allow you to add their content to your own sites for the purposes of sharing it with your visitors.

Is this OK? You bet it is! As long as you give credit and don’t claim the work is your own, you’re all set. That’s what social media and (legal!) video sharing websites are made for! The big but, however, is that the photos or videos have to be user created or submitted. That user can be an individual or a company. But, you can’t grab copyrighted works that have been illegally shared. If a person posts an episode of the television show Lost, that belongs to ABC Television, not the person who posted it, so you should steer clear.

It is OK to use works in the Public Domain without asking permission. It is good form to always cite your source, but you can copy without fear of being sued. Remember, however, that just because something does not have a copyright notice printed on it or was posted on a blog somewhere does not mean it’s public domain.

According to the Copyright office (and available on Wikipedia as well):

Myth: The lack of a copyright notice means the work is public domain.
Not usually true. United States law in effect since March 1, 1989, has made copyright the default for newly created works. For a recent work to be in the public domain the author must specifically opt-out of copyright. For works produced between January 1, 1923 and March 1, 1989, copyright notice is required; however, registration was not required and between January 1, 1978 and March 1, 1989 lack of notice is not necessarily determinative, if attempts were made immediately to correct the lack of notice.

Opting out of copyright is something that has taken shape in different ways on the internet. Multiple types of licenses exist on the internet that allow reproduction with or without restrictions.

The various forms of the Creative Commons License allow for using the published work to varying degrees within your own creations. This typically requires a citation of the original creator. There are also multiple types of software licenses that function along the same lines. The bottom line in this case is to always look for copyright information and/or always read the license.

Affiliate programs are an interesting work-around to copyright rules. If you belong to an affiliate program, you have permission to show an image on your website of the product you are promoting. While you don’t have a license through the original creator to display this image, you usually have permission through your affiliate agreement to show product images so you can promote them.

For example, if you are an affiliate of a poster site, you can show any of those posters on your site – including copyrighted art. The rule is usually that while you can show an image of the product, you can’t (a) show an image by the same artist that the company does not offer in poster form, (b) display an alternate rendering of the image that is not identical to the product being promoted and (c) use any part of the images in your logo, website design or unrelated promotions.

That is just one example, but you can apply that reasoning to other types of affiliate promotion as well. For instance, if you are doing media buys or banner advertising, this is how you are able to display the banner containing, let’s say, the Netflix® logo.

In the next copyright article, I’ll show you a huge time and money saver that is designed for you to copy.

Plagiarism, Fair Use and Your Website

Even if Copyrights are Present, Sometimes It’s OK to Copy

In the last post, we looked at how copyright is obtained and what it covers. Now let’s find out when it’s OK to use someone else’s content. There are a few categories to cover here, but first we want to look at how long a copyright lasts. According to US laws:

A work that was created (fixed in tangible form for the first time) on or after January 1, 1978, is automatically protected from the moment of its creation and is ordinarily given a term enduring for the author’s life plus an additional 70 years after the author’s death. In the case of “a joint work prepared by two or more authors who did not work for hire,” the term lasts for 70 years after the last surviving author’s death. For works made for hire, and for anonymous and pseudonymous works (unless the author’s identity is revealed in Copyright Office records), the duration of copyright will be 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter.

This means you can quote Shakespeare without having to worry about the current publisher of “Macbeth” coming after you. However, there is a difference between copyright infringement and plagiarism. If you do quote “Macbeth” and try to claim it as your own work, even though it’s not protected by copyright you are still plagiarizing.

In school, this can get you in trouble and even kicked out. On the web, it can severely damage your credibility. Would an expert really need to steal someone else’s words?

Let’s say you purchased two internet marketing educational eBooks. If you read both and discover that they each share a number of word-for-word identical paragraphs, would you feel ripped off? I have seen this happen and I can tell you that customers will rarely consult one or both of the authors’ “expert” advice again. The bottom line for this case is to always site your source. You can do it either inline, in a footnote or a bibliography. It adds credibility. It also shows your reader that you did your research so the information you delivered to them would be correct.

A lot of times you will hear people refer to something called “Fair Use”. What is Fair Use? Fair use is defined in sections 107 through 118 of the US Copyright Law (title 17, U.S. Code). Looking at that code, we find:

The doctrine of fair use has developed through a substantial number of court decisions over the years and has been codified in section 107 of the copyright law. Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair:

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work

The distinction between fair use and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission.

Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission. Citing sources generally prevents accusations of plagiarism, but is not a sufficient defense against copyright violations.

The 1961 Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S. Copyright Law cites examples of activities that courts have regarded as fair use:

  • Quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment;
  • Quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work, for illustration or clarification of the author’s observations;
  • Use in a parody of some of the content of the work parodied;
  • Summary of an address or article, with brief quotations, in a news report;
  • Reproduction by a library of a portion of a work to replace part of a damaged copy;
  • Reproduction by a teacher or student of a small part of a work to illustrate a lesson;
  • Reproduction of a work in legislative or judicial proceedings or reports;
  • Incidental and fortuitous reproduction, in a newsreel or broadcast, of a work located in the scene of an event being reported.

Copyright protects the particular way an author has expressed himself. It does not extend to any ideas, systems, or factual information conveyed in the work. The safest course is always to get permission from the copyright owner before using copyrighted material.

When it is impracticable to obtain permission, use of copyrighted material should be avoided unless the doctrine of fair use would clearly apply to the situation. If there is any doubt, it is advisable to consult an attorney.

Going back to the eBook example, I would consider it educational use (remember, I am not a lawyer) to quote something from another eBook as long as it highlighted or contradicted my point. I would not consider it fair use to make their words the primary source of information in my eBook.

The same goes for your website. If you find an article that speaks to the exact point you are trying to convey on your website, always ask the copyright holder if you can post it on your site. If that’s not possible, you will need to continue your research and end up writing something original, in your own words. Remember, if you start with copyrighted material and create something based on it, even if it’s not readily identifiable as the original, it is still considered creating a “derivative work” and still violates the author’s copyright.

Images are the same. If you find an image that you like on some other website, even if it’s a button and not a photo, you shouldn’t just copy it for use on your site.

In the next post, we will look at other circumstances that allow you to use other people’s works on your website.

Copyrights DO Exist on the Internet

Make Sure You Are Aware of the Copyrights For Everything on Your Website

Is the internet the Wild West or are there rules? The web has evolved very fast over the last few years. Companies see it as a serious advertising medium and conduit for information sharing. But something that still seems to cause confusion is content ownership. So, in my next few blog posts, I’m going to talk with you about copyrights.

One big question I hear often is, “When is it OK to copy content from such and such a source?” The safe answer is never, but that’s not entirely accurate either. Instead, let’s look at how someone obtains copyright protection. To find that information, we look to the website.

Copyright protection subsists from the time the work is created in fixed form. The copyright in the work of authorship immediately becomes the property of the author who created the work. Only the author or those deriving their rights through the author can rightfully claim copyright. In the case of works made for hire, the employer and not the employee is considered to be the author.

Now we need to know how that applies to the web. In other words, what types of works can be protected by copyright? Again, we refer to

Copyright protects “original works of authorship” that are fixed in a tangible form of expression. The fixation need not be directly perceptible so long as it may be communicated with the aid of a machine or device. Copyrightable works include the following categories:

  1. literary works
  2. musical works, including any accompanying words
  3. dramatic works, including any accompanying music
  4. pantomimes and choreographic works
  5. pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  6. motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  7. sound recordings
  8. architectural works

These categories should be viewed broadly. For example, computer programs and most “compilations” may be registered as “literary works”; maps and architectural plans may be registered as “pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works.

Look back at the sentence that says “The fixation need not be directly perceptible so long as it may be communicated with the aid of a machine or device.” This statement, along with the one about computer programs, gives coverage to website content.

If you see an image, an article, software, video, audio, website design, logo or other original content online or offline, it is most likely copyrighted by the website owner, designer or author and should not be copied without permission.

There is one other note from the Copyright website that I believe is important – especially since the internet is not confined to the United States (and neither are your visitors or customers!).

There is no such thing as an “international copyright” that will automatically protect an author’s writings throughout the entire world. Protection against unauthorized use in a particular country depends, basically, on the national laws of that country. However, most countries do offer protection to foreign works under certain conditions, and these conditions have been greatly simplified by international copyright treaties and conventions. For further information and a list of countries that maintain copyright relations with the United States, see Circular 38a, International Copyright Relations of the United States.

In the next post, we will look at Fair Use.

JavaScript Snippets – Link Magic

Some of the Neat Little Tricks You Can Do With JavaScript Links

Open a new window with a link

Between Head Tags:

function load() {
var load ='','','scrollbars=no,

Your Link:

<a href="javascript:load()">Open Window</a>

As you can see in the code example above, you can control a some attributes of the new window. You would replace with your own link. Then you can decide the hieght and width of the new window and whether or not the user can resize it (yes/no), if it shows the scrollbars or if the browser toolbar and menu bar should show.

Close a Window With A Link

<a href="javascript: self.close()">Close Window</a>

Reload a Window With A Link

<a href="javascript: window.location.reload()">Reload Window</a>

Go Back 1 Page With A Link

<a href="javascript: history.go(-1)">Back</a>

Print Page

<a href="#" onClick="window.print()">Print Page</a>

Add To Favorites (Internet Explorer Only)

<a href="javascript:window.external.AddFavorite('', 
'Your Site Name')">Add to Favorites</a>


Useful JavaScript Tools
Better than Pop-ups, Pop-ins, and Pop-Unders
Optimize your advertising real estate and increase
ad conversions with Corner Stay Ads & Peel Away Ads

Thinkhost Review

Looking For Shared Green Web Hosting? Beware of Thinkhost

As much as I try to avoid negative reviews, I couldn’t get away from this one. I stumbled on this host when reviewing for the main website. On the surface, they looked decent. However, as I dug deeper, a number of red flags jumped out at me.

The first was the fact that no contact telephone number is listed anywhere on the site. A little more digging and it turns out they don’t offer phone support at all. They only have an online ticket system with a 24-48 hour response time. Compared to other webhosts, this is appalling. The “standard” today is 24/7 live phone and chat support as well as a ticket system with <24 hour response/resolution time.

The second red flag is their list of servers. There are only 4 of them! Two of them are Pentium 4’s, which were current just over 3 years ago, and have 1-2 GB of RAM. The other 2 are 3 GHz Xeon Dual Cores with 4 GB of RAM. This is better, but not enough. With this setup, they have to be oversold.

Overselling on a shared server basically means they sell more accounts than they have the hardware to support. Webhosts that do this bet that most website owners will not come close to their allocated bandwidth/storage/server resource limits and sell to what they believe will be used. This means if some of the websites have a high traffic day, the total bandwidth or server resource limits are exceeded. This translates to every website on that server slowing down. In the worst case, some sites become so slow they are unusable or go down altogether. Situations like this are simply unacceptable to web businesses.

To see if my suspicions were true, I looked up some reviews. With no surprise, I discovered exactly what I expected – countless customers complaining about website instability, downtime and poor customer service. This was almost across the board for all the reviews. I was only able to find a handful of reviews that were positive.

I am typically cautious about negative reviews for a few reasons. First, the reviewer may have had a bad experience because of their inexperience. Second, some folks try to do things on their hosting accounts that the service is not set up for (always read the terms of service and plan details!). Third, they may start off their support contact with an attitude, which doesn’t exactly make anyone want to help them.

However, with Thinkhost, what struck me was the consistency of the complaints. With any webhost, you will typically see a smattering of bad reviews relating to various areas like billing, refunds, problems getting started and difficulties getting a site to work. In this case, almost every reviewer across 4 years (2006 through 2010) talked about their sites loading slowly, not working reliably and customer service being poor and unresponsive.

Based on the information on their website, the lack of a contact phone number, their server hardware quantity and age, and the consistently bad reviews, we can’t recommend Thinkhost. If you are looking for high-quality, environmentally responsible “green” hosting, try GreenGeeks or Hostgator instead.


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