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Copyright Crash Course

Building on Existing Works

Building on Existing Works

Digitization and Orphan Works

Digitization has unleashed unprecedented interest in our cultural heritage, especially that portion of it residing free and clear, in the public domain. It is, unfortunately, horrifying to realize that while we created this great potential to share and enrich our lives with the public domain of knowledge and creativity, through our legislative process we created laws and pursued policies that effectively sequester most of the works of the 20th century behind nearly impenetrable barriers that will last as long as a century or more. Authors don't need such a long copyright term as an incentive to create, and yet, large corporations were able to convince legislators in most countries of the world to give them the keys to lock up their works, just at a time when our ability to benefit from wider access to and use of the works of others has dramatically increased. Copyright owners should be more realistic about the debt they owe to others; no author creates out of thin air.

Online Content

Copyright law governs the use of materials you might find on the internet, just as it governs the use of books, video or music in the analog world. Many people consider copyright law inadequate to deal with the realities of online communication today, but it takes time to change the law. This is actually a good thing: it will probably be better if it changes in response to what we learn about these new technologies through experience, rather than in response to special interests that may be desperate to protect their positions in the print world. Unfortunately though, this means that the law is not going to get clearer right away.

Given unclear legal rules, what can we do today with the materials we find on the internet and what are our liabilities for infringing another's copyright?

Images and Photos

With the prevalence of images available on the internet, social media, and other digital sources, copyright infringement of photographs and other images has become a widespread risk. When creating content and using images, it is important to respect the copyright owner’s rights. The copyright generally is owned by the photographer or creator of the image. Just because an image is on a Google image search, Instagram, or is otherwise easy to copy or snip and paste, that does not mean it is freely available for copying.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 Generic License.