Copyright protects things like books, movies, artwork, photos, software code and emails, and if you’re the content creator in a business, you need to know a little about copyright, whether you’re writing books, blogs or eBooks, running webinars, offering online courses or putting out social media content on behalf of the business. If you don’t, you could end up receiving a nasty letter from someone’s lawyer.
In fact, you don’t just have be producing content marketing for a business. Whether you’re a social media creator, blogger or other type of content creator for business or for fun, you need to understand it. This article is here to tell what you need to know when you’re creating your content.
A couple of basics
The one thing you need to know is that copywriting protects creative expression, not ideas. You could make your own movie about a boy wizard, but you couldn’t take the original Harry Potter film script and do your own version of Harry Potter, for instance.
The other thing to know is that copyright doesn’t last for ever. The length of copyright will depend on the type of work under the copyright, and it can last during the creator’s lifetime through to anything between 20 years and 70 years from the end of the calendar year of the creator’s death. You can find these different durations on the UK Government website.
The date the original creator produced the work will also influence the length of the copyright This can be particularly tricky in the case of older images, where the fact publication of an image before 1st August 1989 or otherwise and the death of the creator before 1st January 1969 or otherwise can also determine the length of the copyright.
You can’t just copy the whole of someone’s work and publish it as if it were your own. If you reproduce someone else’s work and don’t credit the original source, it’s plagiarism and is illegal. To reproduce someone else’s whole work, or a large part of it, you should ask for permission; written permission, ideally, or a simple “yes.”
It’s always best to paraphrase when writing content. If you’re going to quote someone else’s work, you don’t always have to ask for permission, but you absolutely must credit the original source and link to it. To avoid crediting the wrong person, which it is easy to do in the age of content aggregation, try to trace the original source.
Note that social media platforms allow you to embed tweets and some other bits of content into your website. They have special bits of code that allow you to do this. Essentially, you should check their policy on embedding their content before you add it to your site. Often you can do so as long as you use the code the platform provides.
Working with images
For sure, you’re going to use images in your content at some point. Create an original image and you’re the copyright owner automatically (but reproducing and modifying an image doesn’t make you a new copyright holder). If you wish to use an image someone else has created, ask permission. If they say ‘yes’, go and ahead and use it; and if not, respect their wishes.
This is true of video, too, especially if you’re using someone else’s video(s) for commercial gain, although in some circumstances, the use of video may come under “fair use”. If you’re wishing to use videos from TV, movies, shows and other creative media in your marketing, ask for permission first.
You can use free image sites such as Pixabay, on which the images carry no royalties and, in a lot of cases, you can use commercially and don’t have to provide credit, or Creative Commons, where you can use the images for free but only under certain conditions. Note, however, that the account holders aren’t always the original images owners, so be careful when you’re using free image sites.
A safer alternative is to subscribe to a stock images site such as Shutterstock. You can find good quality, royalty-free images, and you won’t need to credit them. “Editorial” images are a different story. They often feature celebrities or public figures, carry royalties and are mainly for use by newspaper outlets and some blogs. When using a paid stock images site, check the terms and conditions of the site to avoid copyright issues.
What about memes? Again, you should be careful. People use memes on the internet all the time, but, technically, they breach copyright. It’s just that the “victims” rarely challenge the use of their images in the meme.
Understanding “fair dealing” and “fair use”
In the UK, there’s a concept called “fair dealing”, under which people may use copyrighted material without permission in certain circumstances if they’re dealing with the work in a fair way.
When considering what would be “fair dealing” and what is an infringement of copyrights, courts look at aspects such as the following:
- How the use of the work affects the market for the original work — if the original copyright holder was to lose money, this wouldn’t be fair to them.
- Is the person using the copyrighted material taking a reasonable, appropriate amount? Usually, taking part of the work would be appropriate.
This is a condition for exemptions when using copyright material for reviewing, criticism, reporting current affairs, non-commercial research, helping the disabled, teaching and other circumstances.
In some countries, you can use copyrighted material legally under the concept of “fair usage”, which is more or less equivalent to “fair dealing”, and courts would look at issues such as:.
- The purpose — is it commercial or is it not for profit, for instance?
- The nature of the content — is it factual or fictional?
- The amount of content used — are you using just a little bit or a large portion of the work?
- The impact the use of the copyright work will have on the market — will it harm the copyright owner’s ability to make money from their work?
If a use is “fair”, then it’s possible to use copyrighted material. YouTube will take down videos if it receives requests from someone who feels a video on the site has infringed their copyright. The platform asks anyone who wants to make these requests to consider whether the use of their material is fair before sending them a request.
Protecting your work
Remember that because you’re a content creator, you’re also a copyright owner, and you should protect your own work. Using the reverse image search in Google Images, you can check if others on the internet are using your images. (Google Images itself is a repository of, mostly, copyrighted images. To take an image from here and not seek permission from the original image creator would be a mistake.) You can also use the tool Copyscape to identify any stolen copy, which is handy if you outsource your content writing to someone else.
If you feel someone is breaching your copyright, you can request the person using your work to remove it from their website, delete the social media post etc (and do the same if someone contacts you for the same reason). You can also contact Google to remove any copyright-infringing content from their listings.
Ultimately, if ever in any doubt over copyright, the best thing you can do is ask the original copyright owner of the work This is the only sure way to know if you can use their material and not end up getting burned by copyright law.
Do you need help creating content for your business?
At Excalibur Press we have a team of over 12 content creators, copywriters, journalists and bloggers in a variety of specialisms writing blogs, website content, video, photography and more for clients on a daily basis.
If you would like to speak to a content creator or would like more information about our rates and process just call 07305354209 or email [email protected]
Find out more about Excalibur Press at https://excaliburpress.co.uk