Canada is the Newest Nation to Join the Fight Against Web Copyright Infringement

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With the amount of money being spent on web development these days, it’s no wonder that web copyright infringement has become such a hot button topic. Protecting one’s precious online content has become increasingly difficult as online content volumes grow and the lines between what is and is not ethical in terms of information sharing become more and more blurred. Today, it’s become just as easy to cut and paste another’s content into a website as it is to create one’s own. So easy, in fact, that few if any users are even taking the time to change the wording. The general thought seems to be that as long as the original work is cited or linked backed to, then one has done nothing wrong.

However, simply citing or linking back to another’s work does not make one immune from accusations of copyright infringement. Far too many users have copyright infringement confused with plagiarism, thinking that as long as they are not attempting to pass off content as their own, they’re okay. Yet at its core, copyright infringement includes simply copying other content, regardless of whether or not the original content owner is credited.

The Canadian Way

With cases of infringement becoming ever more prevalent, federal lawmakers are resolving to take a hard line stance on enforcement. Recently, the Canadian House of Commons enacted sweeping reforms to its original online copyright infringement laws established in 1997. The Copyright Modernization Act implemented in June of 2012 created what some are calling the most restrictive digital lock protections in the world. As a part of this legislation, the Canadian government chose to buck the common trend of the rest of the world and promote a “notice-and-notice” regime to combat online copyright infringement.

Specifically, the notice-and-notice regime requires Internet intermediaries like web hosts and ISPs to notify users on their networks after having received notice themselves of a potential content infringement from the copyright owner. Having identified the IP addresses that are the sources of the infringement, the intermediary must inform the users of the issue. That notice must include:

  • The claimant’s name and address
  • The specific details of the materials that’s being infringed
  • The claimant’s right to such materials
  • The specifics of the alleged infringing activity
  • The dates and times that the activity occurred
  • The electronic addresses from which the activity originated

ISPs and web hosts are then expected to maintain records of these notices for up to one year in the event that the original copyright owner chooses to pursue any civil action.

Yet what really gives the notice-and-notice model its teeth is the threat of monetary penalties that accompany the intermediary notices. Users are informed that they could face fines of up to $ 150,000 per infringement. In most cases, that money is asked for up front.

A More Aggressive Approach

This method differs greatly from the online copyright enforcement methods currently in place around the rest of the world. The U.S., for example, follows a “notice-and-takedown” model that was first established in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998. Under this methodology, online service providers are granted safe harbor from penalties provided that they comply with the following three requirements:

  • They quickly and expeditiously remove any allegedly infringing content
  • They sufficiently demonstrate that they had no knowledge of the presence of the infringing material on their networks
  • They did not receive any financial benefit that could be attributed to the presence of the infringing content.

A failure or delay in removing the material could cause the provider to lose its safe harbor protection and open it up to accusations of secondary liability for the activities of its users.

The Electronic Commerce Directive of 2000 established a de-facto standard for notice-and-takedown in the countries of the European Union. In it, it species that ISPs are not to be held liable for infringement activities that take place via their services if they do not have knowledge of the activity or they’ve taken sufficient measures to ensure that any allegedly infringing content is either removed or disabled. However, there are currently no specified rules in place regarding online copyright infringement at the national level in Europe’s largest countries. In such jurisdictions, the current requirements for providers to notify users of possible infringements are governed by common principles of law.

Notice-and-Notice vs Notice-and-Takedown

Critics of the U.S.’s notice-and-takedown model argue that it creates an atmosphere of panic amongst ISPs and web hosts, encouraging them to remove material for fear of penalties even when there is insufficient evidence to prove the infringement actually took place. Concerns over the impact on limiting free speech are on obvious consequence of this philosophy.

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As far as the Canadian model, opinion has proven to be split right down the middle regarding the effectiveness of notice-and-notice. Internet providers enjoy the benefit of being freed from liability concerns provided they follow the requirements of sending out notices in the specified manner. Proponents also point to the fact that since the notice-and-notice regime’s inception, very few escalated actions have been required of content owners. Much of the Canadian content industry, however, has complained that this philosophy places the responsibility for online copyright enforcement squarely upon their shoulders.

Looking Ahead

So what does the future hold for notice-and-notice? Time will certainly tell whether or not this proves to be an effective method of deterring online copyright infringement. In the meantime, ISPs are placed in the unique position of trying to cater to both the demands of privacy from subscribers as well as the calls for protection from content owners. The impact on the Canadian broadcasting industry, which is now under the Copyright Act required to pay rights holders for temporary copies of the content used in their digital operations, has yet to be felt.

With as easy as it has become for people to set up shop in the digital space and subsequently try to piggyback on other’s information in order to support their own ideas, service models, or initiatives, issues with online copyright infringement are sure to remain at the forefront of the web development industry. Only time will tell as to which of the current copyright enforcement methodologies will truly take hold and prove themselves to be the preferred global industry method of stopping infringement. Until then, the debate between the notice-and-notice and notice-and-takedown models is sure to continue.

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Countries Using ISPs to Help Curb Copyright Violations in 2015

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Copyright violations and copyright law may vary from country to country, but the legal and professional impact they can lead to is essentially the same. The U.S., the United Kingdom, Australia and Russia have all taken steps to prevent copyright violations online in 2015 with the help of ISPs. As a member of the IT community, you owe it to yourself and your clients to learn what steps these countries are taking and how they can impact other areas of the internet, such as social media and sharing sites.

 Down Under Copyright Violations 

In Australia, telecommunications companies will soon be required to let internet users know whenever they are in breach of a copyright and inform users of how to access information the legal way. As a way to enact this new mandate set forth by the Attorney General and the Minister of Communication, telecom companies have to create an industry code for the Australia Communications and Media Authority to register, an industry code that will include how internet users are notified.

Even if users don’t breach a copyright, Australia’s ISPs will still have to do their part in preventing copyright violations, such as working with copyright holders to implement a warning notice and education process. The cost of paying for the systems required for monitoring internet users and sending them the proper notification of a copyright violation will be divided between ISPs and copyright holders. Australia’s government has given ISPs an April 8, 2015 deadline for agreeing on a way to properly address copyright violations.

United Violations 

Starting sometime after the spring of 2015, British ISPs will start sending written notices to repeat offenders who download pirated material along with suggestions as to how they can obtain their materials the legal way. The voluntary mandate, known as the Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme (VCAP), is a joint effort between right holders groups and ISPs called Creative Content UK. For now, the program will only apply to P2P file sharing.

What’s unique about the UK’s approach to online copyright violations is that there aren’t any legal consequences for those who receive warnings. The campaign is more about properly educating internet users rather than punishing them for downloading pirated material. The bigger ISPs have signed on to start sending users written notices, and the smaller ISP companies are being encouraged to do their part as well.

Meanwhile, In Russia… 

Russia has its legal sights set on cracking down on online piracy and copyright violation. Starting this year, any website in the country found to be guilty of several copyright violations will be permanently banned in Russia. If any website is found to be in violation of copyright and blocked, there’s no way that it can become unblocked. While this measure might seem drastic and somewhat biased towards those who are rights holders, what makes the situation even more extreme is that it doesn’t have to be verified that the website is in violation of copyright. A website can be legally blocked if it’s even suspected to be guilty of copyright violation.

The reason the country has taken such extreme measures to curb copyright infringement is that Russia is considered to be the absolute worst when it comes to copyright offenses. It’s been reported that there are more than roughly 70,000 websites in Russia that have been blacklisted, but mainly due to the loosely designed blacklisting mandate.

In addition to the new measure, Russia has also required that communications operators in the country will pay intellectual property rights holders a fee for unencumbered use of online content and universal licenses. What this fee also does is let users off the hook for any piracy liability, which might lower the overall amount of work courts and authorities have to do.

The Copyright Violation Felt ‘Round the World 

As for which countries will adopt the same measures as the U.S., Russia, Australia and the United Kingdom, the answer remains unclear. Since copyright law is different from one country to the next, there’s no such thing as international copyright law. That being said, there are 160 countries that have agreed to a treaty that sets a minimum of requirements for safeguarding the legal rights of rights holders around the globe.

Something else to consider with the copyright laws for different countries is that it can be difficult to decide on what constitutes as a violation when dealing with content that’s shared with several different countries. What’s not considered a violation in one country might be a grave offense in another country. When it comes to such a situation, which country’s laws should be used to determine the outcome of the case?

Share and Share a Copyright

If you’re on any type of social media platform, then you can be considered to be a publisher. Unfortunately, many of your fellow publishers, and possibly yourself included, tend to publish and share without proper regard to the most current copyright laws. Think about it, how many times have you done your due diligence before sharing a picture, video or piece of writing? You might very well be in violation of a copyright right not and not even realize it.

In regards to Twitter, the idea that original tweets can receive copyright protection depends on the idea of whether or not the protection would safeguard the original author’s interest for work intended for a tangible medium. While you’ll have to fight beak and talon to copyright your tweets, doing so isn’t entirely unheard of.

While social media users are often under the impression that attributing another individual’s work absolves them of any wrongdoing or violation, that’s actually not the case. Giving credit and receiving permission are two separate things. For instance, the original owner of the work might not like the site his or her material was shared on. That being said, social media companies can now be held responsible for the actions of their users, and that’s especially true when the company either directly or indirectly encourages the violation of a copyright. Doing so can make the company vulnerable to a legal claim.

Members of the IT community will do well to remain plugged in to the latest developments regarding copyright violations worldwide. You never know when a user’s or client’s mistake might end up with legal troubles for the both of you.

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Website Copyright Violations: How Will Web Hosts Respond?

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Copyright violations aren’t anything new under the digital sun, but measures taken by Russia will most certainly strike an unfamiliar chord across the world. Starting in May of 2015, any website in Russia found guilty of multiple copyright violations will be permanently blocked in Russia. In an unrelated measure to fight Internet piracy in Russia, intellectual property rights holders will have to be paid a fee by the country’s communications operators for universal licenses and unlimited utilization of Internet content. Even if you aren’t a web host in Russia, this decision is sure to cause a ripple effect across the globe. Educate and prepare yourself now so that you’ll be able to ride the waves of change with ease.

 Russian Reform

Russia’s new crackdown on copyrighted material is part of the country’s new bill aimed at anti-piracy. Once a website found to be in violation of the law has been blocked, there’s no way that it can be unblocked. So far, the biggest issue with the measure is from Internet freedom activists who believe that the bill is biased toward rights holders. To make matters worse, it doesn’t have to be confirmed that the site is in violation of copyright, merely being suspected is enough for the site to be permanently blocked. The bill includes everything from books and music to software, but does not include photographs.

There was an earlier bill that included the same measures, but it wasn’t very effective in preventing online piracy, and there are those who believe that the new bill will achieve just as much. New amendments to the bill will also require that the owners of websites include their real name, physical address and email address directly on their websites.

You may be wondering why Russia is going to such great lengths to prevent copyright violations. The reason is that the country is considered to be the absolute worst for having copyright offenders. Currently, there are roughly 70,000 Russian websites that have been blacklisted, but a majority of them are simply suffering from the fallout of poorly conceived blacklisting measures.

Paying Your Dues 

Russia’s anti-piracy fee will have to be paid by communication operators in order to obtain a universal license for the standard content (books, music, movies, etc), but not for compiled works or software. With the new fee, it’s estimated that royalties will range anywhere from three to five American dollars per subscriber every year, which totals to anywhere between approximately $ 200,000,000 and $ 600,000,000 each year.

While the anti-piracy fee will release users from all liability involved with piracy and possibly reduce the amount of work the state authorities and courts have to do, the fee isn’t without its disadvantages. One of the biggest is that the fee absolves rights holders from having to deal with piracy problems and instead places the burdens on communication operators. The biggest problem with this shift is that users may have to pay more for their Internet subscription. So now that you have a better idea of the copyright violation issues going on in Russia, what does all of this have to do with you as a web host operating outside of Russia?

The DMCA 

The Digital Medium Copyright Act (DMCA) was established as a way to safeguard online service providers like web hosts from facing liability for any information that is transmitted or posted by subscribers. This protection only applies if the service provider quickly disables or takes down the copyrighted material.

There are a few other stipulations that provide self harbor protection for web hosts and other online service providers, including:

  • The service provider must not financially benefit from or have knowledge of the copyrighted material
  • After the service provider has been made aware of the infringing activity, he must either remove or block access to the reported material
  • The service provider must create a copyright policy and make sure all subscribers and users are aware of the policy
  • There must also be an agent in place who is qualified to deal with any reported copyright violations

In the event that removed material is not found to be in violation of copyright infringement, the individual who posted or transmitted it on his website is legally entitled to file a counter-notice with the service provider. The service provider must then inform the individual who originally filed the complaint of the counter-notice. If 14 business days pass and the copyright owner does not inform the service provider that he has filed a court claim, then the website owner has the right to restore the materials.

Additional Info

 Just as it is in Russia, photographs aren’t considered under copyright violations. In most cases, the subject of a photograph is not legally allowed to initiate the DMCA takedown process. The only parties who are able to initiate the process are a legally authorized representative of the copyright owner and the copyright owner himself. Any kind of copyright in the photograph belongs solely to the individual who initially took the photograph, not the subject or subjects in the photograph. That being said, it is possible for the photograph’s subject to receive an assignment of copyright or permission to take action on the photographer’s behalf.

In order to truly be protected under the safe harbor provisions of the DMCA, web hosts need to make sure they inform users of copyright infringement policies. This can be done by including the policy or policies on the original contract the user signs or agrees to. You can also include the policies and specific terms of services on your hosting website. No matter how you decide to inform users of your copyright infringement policies, it is legally required to be “reasonably implemented” in order for you to be protected.

Since copyright law can be a bit confusing and all-encompassing at times, it’s important to remember what copyright does not protect, including:

  • Procedures
  • Ideas
  • Facts
  • Methods of operation
  • Systems
  • Processes
  • Principles
  • Discoveries
  • Concepts

It’s a good idea for web hosts to speak with a legal professional who specializes in copyright law in order to make sure they aren’t already in violation of copyright. It’s always better and less stressful to hope for the best while you prepare for the worst.

Top image ©GL Stock Images

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Australian Gov’t Tells ISPs to Create System for Curbing Copyright Infringement by April 2015

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Telecommunications companies in Australia will soon have to notify users when they have breached a copyright as well as provide them with information on how to access legitimate content.

The post Australian Gov’t Tells ISPs to Create System for Curbing Copyright Infringement by April 2015 appeared first on Web Hosting Talk.

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iTech Review: QR Code Design, Copyright Transfer Site, Retina Tracking Marketing

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Technology moves fast. Sometimes it’s faster than we can comprehend, so, to help you find the latest and greatest, here’s a roundup of some of the newest technology, from apps, to software, to web sites and everything else that enters our digital lives. Here’s some hot news…

QR Code Design Made Easy

QR Codes are hot and here to stay. Those little black and white crossword puzzle-like boxes you scan through your smart phone take you to a web page, send information, register users and even place calls automatically. They appear on most packaging, ads, posters and, with savvy companies, on their roofs and the sides of their businesses for anyone to scan. QR Codes are even showing up on cemetery headstones.

As with anything, someone decided to improve upon the product and designed QR codes started popping up. Originally QR codes were developed by the Denso Corporation of Japan (a subsidiary of Toyota) but they didn’t patent the invention so anyone could create and use them (altruistic for a corporation, indeed!).

The twists and turns of the little black squares, as with a barcode, has a unique imprint, recognizable to scanners or readers but there is a 30% correction allowance, so a third of the code can be discarded and replaced with images, type or anything you can imagine. Patrick Donnelly, owner and creative whiz of QR Arts, was one of the leaders in QR design.

Check out some beautifully designed QR codes here…

Other design firms started to handle QR design and it certainly looked like the wave of the future and a guaranteed bright future at that. Well, one improvement deserves another and sure enough as technology advances, so did the creation of software not only to create your own code for free within seconds but now there are sites with software that will create designed codes in seconds.

Uriel Peled, is the Co-Founder at www.eyeconit.com, a startup dealing with image recognition technologies for the QR Code market that developed tech to turn any design into a QR Code in a simple and fully automated click.

Eyeconit was the company that also created the app that allows you to download other apps by merely scanning the icon. According to the description on iTunes, “Get apps by pointing eyeconit at any app icon from another friend’s iPhone, iPad or iPod, or from any internet site or magazine and get a link to download it from the AppStore.”

Watch this company for great things!

QR Hacker is another new site that “pimps” your QR code with a little input and a few clicks.

Transfer Your Copyright Through New Web Site

When I first saw this new site, my first thought was, “who needs a site to transfer the copyright of creative work done for a client? A contract takes care of that!”

Then reality gave me a gentle slap in the face as I read more horror stories from creatives who failed to get signed contracts from clients and also didn’t get paid. So, I took a closer look at https://www.kunvay.com/ (click on “play video”).

I asked Founder, Reggie Solomon, for a little personal explanation of the benefits of Kunvay. He was happy to oblige:

So the great thing about Kunvay is that it can be used to compliment contracting or as a service in lieu of contracting. As many freelancers know, having a contract doesn’t mean you get paid – but it sure does help. Many clients care about when they will receive work, and how much they’re going to pay for it.  Many freelancers are concerned about when they’ll get paid, and how quickly they can produce the work for the clients. The issue of intellectual property ownership doesn’t always get addressed in contracts.

Kunvay can be used along side contracting as a tool to deliver intellectual property to clients and as a stick for creatives and freelancers who can withhold IP transfer and remind non-paying clients that until they’ve paid their invoice, that the creative still owns the creative property and may be entitled to profits resulting from their client’s active use of their property until they are paid.

Kunvay also helps creatives and freelancers by making it easy to handle small jobs.  Contracting is a pain.  If you’re making a $ 250 logo for a client, you really don’t want to have to go through all the contracting and paperwork to ensure your client gets full ownership of what they receive – but it’s an important step. Kunvay is an ideal tool for handling small jobs and is powerful enough to handle the transfer of intellectual property of up to $ 10,000.  We make it dead simple for creativity to change hands helping both creatives and clients.

In my many years of experience, I have to admit that I like the notion of this site and its purpose. Acting somewhat as middleman, between parties who may not understand the ins and outs of the copyright law or that on-time payments are important to the livelihood of independent vendors as well as the legal assurances a growing company must have, the idea seems to be filling a long needed gap in the professional relationship between both vendor and client, even with a signed contract, the small fee (charged to the buyer) is well worth the legal backup provided by Kunvay to head off any problems that may lay in wait down the road, caused by either party, as can happen.

*Note: A copyright can only be transferred by the creator/owner by written consent. All deadlines and payments, along with other considerations should be worked out before a job progresses and agreed upon, in writing, between both the vendor and the client.

Retina Tracking: Marketing Through Your Eyes

Retina tracking has been used in testing for a while now but only in labs where a test subject is viewing a TV monitor while their eye movement and focus is tracked to see where they are looking. While watching advertisements, are they looking directly at the product, the spokesperson, the spokesperson’s crotch or chest? It’s a preliminary A/B testing without releasing any material without assurances that the visual has maximum impact for viewer attention.

The problem is, viewer attention for TV commercials is lost when the consumer is in the store and confronted with other choices. Retina tracking takes the same technology and applies it to shoppers in a live environment.

According to Emily Glazer, in her article, The Eyes Have It: Marketers Now Track Shoppers’ Retinas, appearing in the Wall Street Journal:

Consumer-products companies are turning to new technology to overcome the biggest obstacle to learning what shoppers really think: what the shoppers say.

It turns out consumers aren’t a very reliable source of information about their own preferences. Academic research has shown focus-group subjects try to please their testers and overestimate their interest in products, making it hard to get a read on what works. But getting testing right is crucial for consumer-products companies because they ship high volumes and lack direct contact with shoppers.

As relayed in the article:

“There’s often a big disconnect between what people want to do and what they say they want to do,” says Steve Posavac, a professor of marketing at Vanderbilt University. “Any attitude,” he says, “becomes more extreme” in research studies.

A retina-tracking camera embedded in the rim of a computer screen and attached to special glasses or free standing typically costs $ 25,000 to $ 40,000, according to Michel Wedel, professor of consumer science at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.

The information it collects can be used to form a “heat map” that uses color to show where people looked on a simulated shelf.

This is very true and, as poets have written over the centuries, the eyes are the window to the soul, blah, blah.

Some companies also attach bands to testers’ heads to monitor brain-wave activity showing which designs trigger pleasurable responses, says David Johnston, a senior vice president at JDA Software Group Inc. Companies also track involuntary facial expressions to gauge true emotional reaction, says Jonathan Asher, an executive vice president at marketing firm Perception Research Services International Inc.

Watch a video on this subject.

So, how do you test your web site if you can’t afford this kind of testing? The first method is to design it with basic layout principles (people reading left to right, up to down) and if you wonder why something isn’t working, try A/B testing!

Top image ©GL Stock Images

Are you introducing new software or a site that is noteworthy? Drop me a message and let me know what’s going on. Email Speider @ speiderschneider@gmail.com

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Copyright Infringement: Images on the Web are Not Free to Use!

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©GL Stock Images

So, you were surfing the web and found the coolest image you’ve ever seen. You decide it’s perfect for your web site and you either pop it on yourself or hand it to a web designer and ask him or her to put it on your site. Then you decide you want to go rob a bank because they have all kinds of cool money there.

What does one have to do with the other, you ask? “Robbing a bank is against the law!” Well, so is using a copyrighted image without permission or payment. You won’t go to the “big house” for breaking the copyright law but you will face huge fines that could cripple your business. Think I’m wrong or believe you will never get caught? The same ability to search Google for images and finding one you want to use for your site has the same power to have the owner of the image find you. There is no hiding and the belief that you can’t be touched will give you nightmares once you are found.

The Basic Copyright Law

Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Don’t know you are suppose to stop at a red light? Tough! Thought you could just help yourself to an image off the internet? Tough! If you think the copyright law means nothing, better read up on it first.

Copyright infringement can include a violation of the rights of the creator or rights holder. Examples of imagery infringement may include:

Use of whole or part of an image without permission.

Use beyond the scope of a license or permission.

Adapting an image without permission.

Asking another photographer or illustrator to identically recreate the image.

The legal penalties for copyright infringement are:

Infringer pays the actual dollar amount of damages and profits.

The law provides a range from $ 200 to $ 150,000 for each work infringed.

Infringer pays for all attorney’s fees and court costs.

The Court can issue an injunction to stop the infringing acts.

The Court can impound the illegal works.

The infringer can go to jail.

A friend of mine wrote and told me his company was stealing copyrighted work. He was very upset and said that his manager believes that anything on the internet is available to be put on a “crappy T-shirt.”

He asked my advice on what to do. He was a creative who felt righteous indignation about stealing from other creatives. I had to think about what to say in response.

The first time I was ordered to steal copyrighted material by my boss, I was horrified and felt I should protect the rights of others. It wasn’t so much for monetary gain but for a presentation and involved the work of several dozen illustrators. Nonetheless, it was something for which they should have received payment.

I pushed the point in a meeting on the project, pontificating on the copyright law in front of several executives and the president of the company. Later on, my supervisor informed me that the multi-sleazebag legal department had approved of the plan, claiming that if the copyright owners found out, it “wouldn’t cost more than a hundred dollars or so.”

Once again, I pointed out that the actual figure would be much more and the embarrassment to the corporation would be devastating. I was told not to worry about it and use the material. I did but made a copy of the presentation for my records, just in case. In a worst-case scenario, I didn’t want to be the art director who stole from other creatives. I knew of at least one other art director who took the fall for the company when the same thing happened. The project was discovered and the art director was fired, while every other art director and designer in the company sat mum, afraid to speak up and say that she had been handed the material and told to use it.

“Just do it and forget about it…it’s not your neck on the line. When the company is sued for thousands of dollars, you’ll be long gone,” I wrote to my friend. I hit send and felt I had given him the best advice available. Later I realized that he would take the blame when the company got caught. I regretted not telling him to nail the company doors shut with everyone inside and burn the place to the ground or poison the employee coffee pot because the penalty would be less then the damage to his professional reputation when he became the scapegoat for his company and their blatant disregard for the law.

What I neglected to tell him was that even if he wasn’t the scapegoat of blame, just knowing that the infringement occurred, he was guilty by association. He was part of the process.

Yes, it’s the law. Using copyrighted material without permission for any commercial usage, which includes presentations, T-shirts, promotional material, in-house posters, etc. is a breach of the copyright law. It does, however, happen every day in every part of the world. If Hello Kitty were a real person, she would die and spin in her grave from all of the illegal usage of her cute and profitable visage. Me-ouch!

So what can happen to someone involved, even at the lowest levels of infringement? If an infringement is discovered, responsible parties may include:

The party that infringed (the photographer or the person that stole the image in the first place), even if unintentionally.

Employees or others who participated in the original infringement.

Anyone who published the infringing image, whether they had knowledge or not.

Anyone who authorized or encouraged infringement.

My aforementioned friend continued his tale of woe about his employer, relating that his employer was raided by homeland security and Major League Baseball for his stock and records of copyright infringed materials. The owner of the company refuses to pay the fine levied by Major League Baseball through a court order and has now gone back into printing sports team shirts with infringed logos. Here’s how his boss believes he can get around the law:

“He believes that if he prints a T-shirt with a major league sports team logo and donates it to his church or sells it through his church, it’s not illegal. He insists that anything he donates in the name of God is not to make a profit.”

The company owner, when warned about the copyright law by employees, stated, “you can not copyright an image of a bird, or an illustration of a bird. My brother in law told me so.”

I now realize I gave him the wrong advice. “Let it go,” I wrote. “It’s not your neck on the line. Just take an ‘I-don’t-care-attitude’ and life will be easier. Survival is number one in this economy and having a job … any job is important.”

His neck was right there in the noose with his employer. If the owner of the company wanted to throw my friend under the bus, he could say he had no idea that the image was copyrighted or he could just tell the authorities that everyone was equally involved. So what was he to do?

Quiting his job in this economic climate is impossible. He could quit and file suit as he had no choice but it would take years to get to court and longer to get paid, minus legal fees… not to mention just trying to collect from a man who believed he was protected “by God.”

A week later, I wrote he some updated advice. “Make getting a new job your number one priority, after working the hours you need to put into that place and something better will come your way. Then just live with the fading nightmares for a while and laugh at the experience.”

I tried to impart some way he could have a modicum of legal protection. “There is nothing you can say that will convince (your boss) otherwise. Just save all files and when you leave, turn him in to the assorted copyright holders so his life ends in poverty and misery and he can think God hates him.”

Unfortunately, the law is the law and in a worst-case scenario, my friend would have to hope for a sympathetic judge. It’s not a gamble I would like to take.

How many times have creatives, been handed images by a client or boss and been told to use them in an assignment or project? The minute you use an image you know to be illegal, you are an accessory to a copyright theft. Financial penalties can be devastating and if the client or your boss decides to throw you under the bus, then you will really be stuck. It’s not only monetary damages, which may include punitive damages but you may also be ordered to pay the plaintiff’s legal costs, aside from your own. I’ve seen it happen and the innocent designer’s career and life was ruined while the people who ordered them to use the illegal images never gave it a second thought. It’s a hard fact of life and the creative industry.

When the Law Catches Up With You

Since my friend’s employer is somewhat typical of people who believe they have the right or won’t get caught infringing copyrighted material, let’s take a look at the likely consequences he will eventually face. Unless God is his legal representation, he WILL eventually face some life changing realities.

The employer already has a court order he’s ignoring. That’s even worse then being caught infringing copyrighted work. He has been caught, pronounced guilty and has had his punishment spelled out in an official court document. To ignore it is contemptuous in the eyes of the court and when, not if but when an order of contempt is filed by the petitioner (the copyright holder), my friend’s boss will be looking at jail time and huge financial hits that won’t just close his business but may also reach into his personal holdings, depending on his incorporation. His belief in fair use through religious foundations is not valid.

There are valid uses of copyrighted material, including certain educational uses, derivative works and other fair use exceptions. None of these applies to commercial uses such as my friend’s employer’s business uses.

In many cases, you can find and legally use an image (not an existing logo or corporate registered trademark) or one that is close to what you want, just by searching out the image from one of the many stock image houses out there.

GL Stock Images is one of the stock companies that have thousands of images available. With costs starting at $ 1 (USD), it’s affordable and you are legally covered!

Stock Images Make Sense

When using stock images, you need to be aware of the rights you are purchasing for your particular use. Kelly Jay, The owner/partner of GL Stock Images, imparts the difference in rights sold by stock sources:

Rights Managed Images

When you purchase a rights-managed image, you are essentially “renting” the image for a one-time use in your project. The image price is determined on several factors: placement, size, quantity, demographics/traffic, industry type, distribution, duration and resolution. Depending on your project scope, the pricing can be dramatic. For example, an image purchased for the cover of Time Magazine may cost thousands of dollars whereas the same image purchased for a small website or blog may cost under a hundred dollars.

Royalty Free Images

A less expensive alternative is to purchase royalty free images. Royalty free means you do not have to pay royalties only a one-time fee to use the image. This means you can use the image for multiple aspects of your project, such as print and web. Pricing is based on image size/resolution: small, medium or large. The smaller the size means the smaller the price.

For more information on the use and legalities of stock images, see more at stockphotorights.com.

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