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How to avoid copyright infringement in the digital age

Monday, 10 April 2017

pexels-photo-313559When someone copies, distributes or edits someone else’s work online without their express permission this is known as copyright infringement. For businesses in the UK it is especially important to try and avoid copyright infringement which can result in both financial losses and harm to your reputation.

What is copyright?

Copyright is an intellectual property right that automatically covers a multitude of types of work including film, photographs, art, audio and more and lasts for the duration of the author’s life plus 70 years. Infringing on someone’s copyright can result in financial damage awarded through litigation and also damage to reputation through negative publicity.

How to avoid copyright infringement

First of all, it’s important to understand that quite often copyright infringement occurs without any ill intention. Instead, offenders manage to infringe on copyright through a lack of knowledge about what is and isn’t allowed. Sadly, pleading ignorance is not an acceptable defence should you be sued for wrongfully using someone else’s work.

One common example of this type of infringement is when someone decides to use an image that they do not own, perhaps in marketing material or on their website. By taking the image from another person’s website, or from a search engine results page, they are illegally using someone else’s work. However, many people assume that if it is on the internet then it is ‘fair game’ which is not true.

Another common example is when a company use music in an advert, or on their website without the permission of the owner. Both you and your employees are advised to automatically assume that any asset you are looking at on the internet belongs to someone else – whether that’s photography, audio, film or something else.

Unless it explicitly states that the image or piece of music is free for commercial use or the author has given you their permission to use it then you should always assume that it off limits.

Without a proper understanding of copyright it is easy for mistakes to be made which is why it is important to encourage a company culture where online media is sourced from the correct places and with the correct permission such as from stock photography websites. While this may cost you money to purchase images or music, you will be confident that you can legally use the images without fear of litigation.

If you or one of your employees has been accused of copyright infringement then you should seek immediate legal advice from a trusted source. Here at Rollingsons our team of copyright and trademark solicitors have handled claims in a wide variety of creative industries. For a consultation, please call us on 020 7611 4848 or click here for further information.

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