Business tips

Intellectual Property series, part 4: Curating online content

Creating and sharing online content can help your search engine rankings, but make sure you stay on the right side of the law when it comes to using other people’s content.

Original online content is a great way to increase the appeal of your website and help to build up an online community. Adding high-quality content to your website is also an effective way to attract more website visitors and improve your Google search ranking.

If, however, you want to post the images, words or videos created by other people online, you must make sure you are adhering to copyright laws and credit the content appropriately.

Copyright content

The Copyright Act 1968 allows you to use copyright material without permission if your use is a “fair dealing” for one of the following purposes:

– Research or study
– Criticism or review
– Parody or satire
– Reporting news
– Professional advice by a lawyer, patent attorney or trade marks attorney.

Jennifer Tutty, Director of Melbourne-based law form Studio Legal, says if you are genuinely using the material for these purposes, it is likely to be considered “fair dealing”.

“In these instances,” she adds, “you are normally able to reproduce another’s content or blog on your own website, subject to any express restrictions or prohibitions they indicate. Always double-check the terms of use of any blogging site or article you wish to reproduce.”

Naming your source

You should always credit the source of your content and include a link to the blog or original website – this is also the case if you engage a guest blogger.

“Giving credit doesn’t form part of the ‘fair dealing’ provisions, but doing so will often demonstrate an awareness on your part and respect for the creator’s copyright,” says Tutty. “Normally, you will not infringe copyright by reproducing material for the purposes of criticism, review, satire or parody if this is your true purpose and the usage is fair, so long as you give sufficient acknowledgement of the works you are reproducing. This will be satisfied if you identify the work by its title or describe it, name its author or its creator.”

Sharing and reproducing content

The same rules of copyright apply if you wish to share someone else’s content via social media.

“If you would like to reproduce or share someone else’s material, you should always check to see whether or not their site explicitly permits this or, if absent, contact them for permission,” says Tutty. “Doing so will provide you with a much greater level of protection.”

Copyright owners have the right to control the reproduction of their material and how it is communicated to the public via blog posts. “Unless you have an express or implied provision to reproduce works such as photos, videos and articles, it is unlikely that you can simply reproduce them on your own website or social media channel,” says Tutty. “If you are unsure, it is always best practice to check for express or implied permissions.”

Express permission may be granted if you email a request for permission and receive a reply that allows you to use the material and outlines how it may be used.

Implied permission is usually limited in scope and Tutty recommends exercising caution. “Some examples include links that allow you to email the article or site to a friend or a sign that lets you print the page or link,” she says.

Social media sharing

Social media sites are constantly changing their terms and conditions and terms of use. Generally though, with most of the big sites like Facebook and Twitter, once you post an original photograph or image that you own, you grant the social media site a licence to use the image within the network. This means that your friends and followers are free to share the image – and you are also free to share other people’s content within the network. For instance, you can share a particular brand’s, company’s or individual’s image or video within Facebook via the sharing button.

Fines and penalties

A failure to credit your website’s content may lead to a breach of copyright. This could see you having to pay damages or face an injunction, which usually involves a court prohibiting your website from posting the work.

“It’s important to remember that not all infringements of copyright attract criminal penalties,” says Tutty. “As long as you are not infringing the work on a commercial scale by selling it on, distributing it to third parties or profiting from its use, an infringement is unlikely to be a criminal offence.” In the case that your infringement is a criminal offence, fines can reach up to $93,500 or can lead to imprisonment. The maximum penalty for strict liability offences, which are minor in nature, is $6,600.

That means it is best to stay on the right side of the copyright law.

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