Jan 28, 2014 • Jessica Jones
If you have a website - or if you’re responsible for managing the content on a website - it is important to have at least some understanding of the concept of copyright infringement. If the answer to “where did you get that image?” is “from Google” then you probably shouldn’t be using it on your site.
Many people just aren’t aware that copyright infringement is an issue on the internet, but as with most legal issues, “I didn’t know” isn’t going to get you very far if you find yourself on the wrong side of a lawsuit. If you maintain a website, it’s your responsibility to be informed.
The use of any material that isn’t yours or that you don’t have permission to use can constitute copyright infringement. The most common type of copyright infringement on websites is the use of images without proper permissions. That image you found on Google’s image search may be exactly what you want for your site, but if you plan on using it you’d better be able to track down the owner of that image and find out whether it’s for sale or whether they’re willing to give you permission to use it. If not - or if you simply can’t determine who the owner is - don’t use it. If you do, you risk opening yourself up to a lawsuit.
When in doubt, always assume that you don’t have the right to use content you find on the internet - or anywhere, for that matter! Scanning in an image from a magazine or copying an article from a printed source is just as much copyright infringement as taking something from the internet. Unless you have explicit permission from the content’s owner or the content is explicitly free to use, don’t assume it’s public domain.
Even if an image is listed as free to use, make sure to read the fine print. Many sites that give away free content for use on websites - background textures, clip art, etc. - only allow for free use on personal sites: commercial sites are expected to pay for the content. If you are looking for resources for a business site then you cannot safely take advantage of much free content. There are some sites that offer truly free resources, but they are the exception rather than the rule.
Copying text from another source onto your website is also a bad idea. If your company provides services that are fairly straightforward you may be tempted to use the already written content from the website of another company that offers similar services. Even if the other company is nowhere near you and therefore not your competitor, they either wrote that content themselves or paid a copywriter for it and they probably won’t appreciate it being taken without their permission.
Will they ever find out? It’s more likely than you think - resources like Copyscape make it easy for companies to monitor whether their content is being used elsewhere on the internet. Even if they never found out - do you really want to be that kid who looks over a classmate’s shoulder for answers?
If you need photography and you don’t have the time or resources to either take your own images or hire a photographer, stock photography is a great option. We usually recommend iStock - they’ve got a massive selection and, if you bargain hunt, you can usually find images at reasonable prices. Pro tip: once you’ve done a search you can slide down the “Price Range” slider on the left sidebar to filter out more expensive images.
As for text, if you’re not comfortable writing your own content you can always hire a copywriter. The investment will mean your site has solid, custom written content that won’t be in any danger of violating copyright law. In fact, Slamdot now offers copywriting services, so if you’re in need of some help with your content, get in touch with us to find out how we can help out! You could have content written by the same author that brings you these phenomenally helpful blog posts!
Taking content from another site may be easier and cheaper - at the moment. The risk and potential consequences mean that it could end up being far more trouble - and cost - in the long run. Getting in trouble for copyright infringement reflects badly on your company and you. It’s not worth it - do the right thing for your company and yourself!