You’ve been a prolific writer for your business for a long time, and of course, like all other writers, you use sources to support the facts you write in your content. Of course, there is no reason for him to assume anything other than the fact that he owns the copyright to all the content he is writing.
Sometimes the line is obscured
If you own the copyright to specific content (including graphics, videos, etc.), that means you can do whatever you want with that content. After all, it belongs to you. On the other hand, if someone else owns the copyright to the content, you are severely limited from doing whatever you want with that content. That means you can’t recycle the content and use it over and over again, you can allow other people to post the content on their websites (for more exposure and a wider reach), and you can’t touch the images (making them smaller, bigger, wider, narrower). Your hands are tied in that case. However, you may not always understand when it is appropriate (legally and ethically) to alter content in any way and when you really need to stay out of it.
You probably have an accurate idea that you can’t just find a graphic image online, copy it, and embed it into your content. That’s just common sense. If you use any of someone else’s content (words), you’ll probably realize that you should give the author credit for what he or she has written. However, copyright goes much further. It is extremely important that you understand the basics of copyright and how it applies to you and your business. If you don’t pay attention to what you are and are not allowed to do, you can get yourself into trouble (legally and financially speaking). There are some concepts that will benefit you if you at least have a working knowledge of them. Hopefully they won’t actually apply to you at all, but being aware is very important to you.
- Have a license agreement, including an invoice: That is an invoice from the person who owns the copyright. If you plan to use someone else’s copyrighted material, you’ll probably have to pay that person (or entity) some money. There may be rare occasions when the person or entity will not charge you money, but you need to have a written agreement between you to stay out of trouble.
- Copyright Infringement Lawsuit: This is a lawsuit that occurs in federal court. The person or entity filing the complaint is the copyright owner. The lawsuit will make demands, such as that you remove all copyrighted material from anywhere you have posted online. You will also (most likely) be expected to pay a certain amount of money (damages) and there is also the possibility that you will be asked to pay attorneys’ fees.
- Notice of cease and desist: This is a communication (usually in the form of a letter) from the person who owns the copyright telling you to remove your content from wherever you posted it.
- Digital Millennium Copyright Act Takedown Notice: This is a notice referring to the act on behalf of the copyright owner. It is sent to your web hosting service. It will insist that your web host disable any access to anywhere the copyrighted content appears.
The worrying thing about this situation is that, depending on the whim of the copyright owner, you may end up paying in a number of ways. It can be minor, but it can also be important. You may be notified of copyright infringement in stages. If you respond immediately after receiving the first prompt, you may be in luck and after doing what is required of you, that will be the end of it, as long as you never do it again. However, if it continues, the consequences will likely become more and more serious. You’ll need to tread carefully in this situation and do what you need to do quickly if you want to get away relatively unscathed.
Learn about your rights
When you write a piece of content for the first time, you should make sure that you take all the steps to ensure that you never run into these types of issues that are described above. If you are not the one creating the content, you should make sure that the other person assigns you ownership of the copyright. It is essential that you have it in writing. The best thing to do is to have a written contract between you and the other person. Hopefully, in that case, there will be no doubts about anything. If you want the creator to be able to benefit from the content, it’s safest to include that in the contract as well. The kinds of things you’ll want to include in the contract are: what exactly is being created, how revisions are handled, deadlines and consequences if those deadlines are missed, the payment schedule, who will own the copyright, and who will be responsible for the consequences if copyright is violated. If you’re in a long-term relationship with that person, you’ll probably find that you’ll need to revise your contract over time.
Copyright ownership may not have been something you thought about very often (or at all); however, you must keep it in mind at all times and be aware of doing the right thing. If you don’t, the consequences will probably not be pleasant. You must protect your reputation and your bank account at all times. Copyright laws are very complicated and you may not even realize that you are violating any of those laws. However, you should be aware of what you are doing and make sure that you are not further violating any copyright laws. Interestingly, there are some situations where you do not need to get permission from the content copyright owner. You should do your research and determine when those rules apply, which will lighten the load a bit. You were certainly not aware that you were doing something wrong. However, once you’re up to speed, you need to make sure you’re doing everything by the book.