What an Intelligent Small Business Owner Needs to Know About Copyright Law - Part 4

Copyright Myths


We mentioned the copyright myth that it is not copyright infringement if you use a photo from the internet, but just give credit to the artist.


Here are some other myths:

  • I have to register my work to get a copyright

  • I can get a copyright by mailing my work to myself

  • If it is on the internet, I can use it freely

  • If I use 10% or less, I can copy it

  • If there is no copyright notice on the artwork, there is no copyright

  • If I don’t charge for it, I can use it

  • I have a nonprofit, so I can copy it

  • I’m just using it for educational or informational purposes

Many of these myths relate to the fair-use doctrine. Under the fair-use doctrine, the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works is permitted in certain circumstances.


Section 107 of the Copyright Act provides the statutory framework for determining whether something is a fair use and identifies certain types of uses—such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research—as examples of activities that may qualify as fair use.


What business owners need to understand is that fair use is a defense to a claim of copyright infringement, it is not a free-use doctrine (as in, I only copied 10% of the article, so it’s a fair use).


It is difficult to apply the balancing factors in advance to determine whether your copying is permissible or not. It will depend on the particular facts and circumstances of the use of the copied material, which means it is an expensive lawsuit to defend.


Bottom line, don’t right-click. Seek permission, seek licenses or hire someone via a work-made-for-hire written contract to create original artwork or written materials for your business.

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