Home » General » Legal Issues All Website Owners Need to Know

Legal Issues All Website Owners Need to Know

Perhaps the greatest benefit that you can experience from the internet is the ease with which one is able to access information. All an internet user needs to do to start, is to type a word or phrase on a search engine such as Google, and Google will then generate various sets of results. Search engine results show not only websites or pages mentioning the words you type, but it also shows you related images, videos and books.

This leads to the mistaken impression that everything that one finds on the internet is in the “public domain” and free for the use of anyone for whatever purpose it sees fit. However, not everything on the internet is free, so if you are planning to put your business online, here are some matters you’ll need to know before you begin.

As a general rule, all original images on another website owner’s website are protected by copyright and any unauthorized copying of this image is an infringement of that website owner’s copyright. The same is true with all other original content  in that website. Original text, developed by the owner of the website, is protected by copyright, so appropriating without permission is also illegal.

There are some instances when another website’s content may be used for free. There are a lot of resources for licensed images on the internet. Often, the original owner will provide terms of use, such as that one may not alter the image in any way, or that the user should acknowledge or provide a link to the original site.  Also, there are a lot of clip-art libraries online, subject of course to certain legal limitations. Then there are websites such as www.istockphoto.com and http://shutterstock.com that provide royalty-free stock photos, graphics, and sometimes even video and audio, for a price.

Aside from the above cases, there is one other way that another website’s content may be used for free, and that is under “fair use.” However, Fair Use only provides for the legal, non-licensed citation or incorporation of copyrighted material in another author’s work under certain circumstances such as commentary, criticism, news reporting, research, teaching, library archiving and scholarship.

Therefore, the best way to avoid legal entanglements on the World Wide Web is to make sure that your website’s content is original. If you have products, hire a photographer. If your website requires text, hire a professional copywriter. If you require a logo, hire a professional designer to make one.

Very often, people “steal” content from the internet because they believe it saves them money; they don’t want to spend on design, photography and other professional services. However, if they continue on this path, then the major consequence will be that they’ll end up paying professional services anyway – a really expensive lawyer!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *