March 5, 2015 | Posted in:Copyright

A: In short, NO, it is not legal!

As Intellectual Property lawyers we are available to our clients for counsel on a variety of legal matters including copyright protection and copyright infringement. However many business owners are not asking questions about copyright infringement. They seem to understand the importance of having a professional photo for brochures and other print materials but they are not paying attention to the use of digital photos on their Internet properties. They hire professional writers for press releases, but they don’t hire them for their website or blog.

How Could Anyone Ever Find Out That My Website Has Copied Content or Images?

Believe us, people steal content and images and are found out. It happens all the time. It might seem like the World Wide Web is chaos, but the job of the Search Engines is to create order out of that chaos.

Arthur Peslak Chaos and Copyrights

How Photography Copyright Infringement Occurs

It seems that many people – business owners, employees, website developers, bloggers, and a new breed of Social Media experts – are going to the World Wide Web and searching for photos and downloading them to their desktops and then uploading them to their website, blogs, and social media sites. Just because you go to a search engine like Google, Bing, or Yahoo, do a search, and then click on “images” – it does NOT mean that these images are free for you to use for your business. They are free for people to look at and enjoy but that is all.

Some more technical savvy users will click on the website that the image came from and not see any copyright info and consider the photo – fair game. The web page that they are clicking on is not necessarily the originator – the owner of the photo. Hence you are simply stealing the photo from someone who has already stolen it.

How Common Text Copyright Infringement Is and How Easy is it to Identify

Business owners, entrepreneurs, management, and even sales staff often can talk for hours about their business however when it comes to giving content to their website developers/admins or bloggers they run out of things to say, don’t write down their thoughts, and don’t provide content that could be unique and valuable for the business. What often happens is a staff or contractor will search the internet and copy text from other websites and use it for their website or blog. Sometimes it’s only a paragraph or a short sentence. But the job of a search engine is to index all the content on the Internet – if you do a search for a sentence or paragraph on a search engine you will often find multiple results for the same sentence. In some cases this is not an issue (as in the term “Contact Us”), but in many cases the search results shows the plagiarism.

Besides being illegal, copying content is very bad for your Internet visibility. The first thing any Search Engine Optimization specialist will tell you is to develop unique, fresh content. If you have stolen, duplicate content you are competing against all the other websites with the exact same content. And once one of the search engines like Google notice the plagiarized content … they will black list your website.

But I Didn’t Know

Many business owners might not even be aware that their staff or sub-contractors are using stolen photos. However, business owners be warned…. if you are not authorizing the budget to pay a local photographer to take photos, purchasing stock photos, or allowing staff to take candid photos – you should be asking where all the photos on your website, blog, and social media are coming from. Ignorance is not a defense.

Need more information about protecting your content or addressing copyright infringement?
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Intellectual Property Law blog posts from www.iplaw-gmp.net. Call 732-363-3333 for an attorney in Patents, Trademarks, Copyrights, & Unfair Competition. Serving NJ, NY, PA for legal, technical & business issues.