Yes, Copyright Exists on the Web

I just got a call from a family member.  Someone took a picture she took of one of her dogs off her Website, put it on license plate frames and is selling the frames on eBay.  What should she do?

I wish all family legal questions were this easy.

This violation of copyright is incredibly common on the Web. People who don’t know better, and people who should, frequently take images, articles, whatever, and think they can utilizes those items as they please.  They cannot. Contrary to popular opinion the Web is not the Wild West and laws don’t stop here.

My family doesn’t really need my help at this point, the solution is quite simple.  Email the person who took the photo, inform him he is violating copyright and demand he stop selling the item.  Also, email eBay, let the folks know that copyright is being violated, demand the auction be stopped.

If the person selling on eBay refuses to stop the sale, I explained, I’ll write a letter then.  My dad said we know a patent lawyer, can he do it? I said you don’t need to pay a patent lawyer.  He said, he’ll do it for free. I said even better, tell him you need a take down notice.

Not all that long ago a magazine got itself in a lot of trouble when it took an article written by another person and put it in the online version of the magazine. The snarky response when approached by the author was that she should be grateful for the publicity and copyright doesn’t exist on the Web.  The response went viral, the magazine has been all but ruined.  Here is a blog post about that particular situation.

Not only does copyright exist on the Web; so do public relations.

If you or your clients desire use of an article or picture please be sure to get permission.  If you need pictures for your site, blog or a product there are a lot of very inexpensive stock photo companies that will sell use of a picture. The price varies based on planned use of the photo. A quick search for stock photos will work.  Make sure you only use the image for the purposes for which it is approved and/or you paid.

If you want to share an article just give a brief explanation of the article/post and link to it.  That is what the Internet is for anyway, sharing information through linking.

Avoid a headache and a take down notice.  Don’t violate copyright law and don’t allow your clients to do it either.

Follow Up:  The people selling the license plates apologized and took the auction right down.  It is good when people can admit they are wrong.

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