Copyright protection on the internet provides the original authors and artists the right to prevent others from copying or taking the original work and claiming it as their own. Copyright laws in the United States give protection to the author or creator of any original works. This covers anything that falls under the following categories: literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, architectural, and other intellectual works.

Original work can qualify for copyright where it can be seen the author used their own expression and did not copy from someone else's work. If a compilation is created, the United States Supreme Court has ruled that the compilation must be original in the arrangement or how it selected data.

Federal copyrights begin when the work is in a tangible form, such as a photo or a book. Also, this applies to the work regardless of whether it is on a hard drive, computer discs, film, or tape. The copyright notice must meet the proper form, which is "Copyright or © (date) by (name of owner or author)." For example, "Copyright 2018 John Smith" or "© 2018 John Smith."

Under the Berne Convention, copyright protection for any work created after April 1, 1989, is put in place automatically upon creation without the need for a declaration or assertion. This means as soon as the work is written or recorded in a physical medium, copyrights are automatically given to the author. If the author grants rights to the public domain or another person, this removes the copyright protection from the author.

To increase your chance of legal protection in case of copyright infringement, you must register the work. Registration is recommended, as this is a requirement to file an infringement lawsuit. If you register within three months of creation or before any infringement occurs, you can sue for statutory damages. If you do not register in the timeframes listed, you may only seek actual damages. By registering, you are increasing your financial award possibilities dramatically. Instead of $10, you could receive $150,000.

Copyright on the internet covers web pages and their content. The following are also covered:

  • Overall design.
  • All links.
  • Original text.
  • Graphics.
  • Audio.
  • Video.
  • Any additional original elements.

This is critical to note because if any of these elements are used on other websites or are posted elsewhere without permission of the owner, that constitutes is a copyright violation. Scanning any materials from published periodicals and books to post on the internet without permission is also a copyright violation. If you plan to use any copyrighted material, it is best to request permission. This is an easy process and only requires that you contact the owner. Email is the easiest course of action and provides documentation if needed at a later date.

Website Terms of Use

Every website should list restrictions on content used in a Terms of Use. In the Terms of Use, website content is broadly defined and includes the following:

  • All materials.
  • Text.
  • Graphics.
  • Images.
  • Logos.
  • Photographs.
  • Illustrations.
  • Audio clips.
  • Video clips.
  • Audiovisual material.

The Terms of Use should clearly state that all content on the website is protected by copyright and any associated intellectual property laws. It should also state that the website owners, affiliates, and if applicable, third-party licensors own all content. In the case of third parties, a license agreement will be in place to allow the website owners to use their content.

The Terms of Use should also include any restrictions related to how the content on the site can be used by the users in a section called Limitations of Use. The restrictions may include that users cannot modify, copy, transmit, sell, reproduce, or license any of the content. If the users are allowed to download content for personal use, this will be stated in the Limitations of Use.

There have been multiple copyright cases where parties have used copyrighted material from a website on another website or message board without permission. These cases have included digitized materials that were then posted on the internet, unauthorized use of software distribution, and religious texts. In these cases, the copyright owners won their cases because they were able to show copyright infringement took place.

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