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Nutrition Informatics Blog



What You Need to Know About Copyright

What You Need to Know About Copyright

Guest Blog By Nancy Allen, MS, MLS, RD, LD, CNSC

Dietitians, including those who practice in nutrition informatics, are teachers. We teach all the time, right? Because we are always looking for new ways to make our topic easy to understand, pertinent to our client, and timely, we bookmark Web pages, pin items on Pinterest, and copy pictures and illustrations from the Web. Then, we add the pictures to our blogs, Web sites, PowerPoint presentations, and handouts. And the products we create look great!

We tell ourselves:

·   “There is not a copyright symbol (©), so I can use it.”

·   “I am teaching, so I can use it.”

·   “Only 10 people are in the class, so I can use it.”

·   “Who’s going to notice? I’ll use it.”

The most important fact to keep in mind from my point of view is: Ignorance of the law is not a defense. Maybe your presentation is just to a small group, but a student/client may repost your slide set (copyright infringement in its own right), and if it includes a copyright-protected photo or illustration, this could make you liable.

Is it likely you will have litigation brought against you? Probably not, but last year, a newspaper hired a group of lawyers to search the Web looking for reposting of photos and videos from the newspaper’s Web site. The lawyers, dubbed the Copyright Trolls, were relentless in tracking down alleged violators. Although most of the suits filed by the Copyright Trolls were dismissed, they created a lot of drama, disrupted lives, and incredible legal fees. In my mind, taking the time to have a basic understanding of copyright and how it applies to your work is paramount.

You should know:

·   Copyright adheres, with or without the © symbol, the minute an item is “created and fixed in a tangible form.” For example, the notebook paper that was the blueprint sketch of the concept for the microblog Twitter was under copyright protection as soon as the first lines of the sketch were drawn. Never assume something is not under copyright.

·   For works created after January 1, 1978, copyright adheres for the life of the author plus 70 years. You will find convoluted exceptions and ways to extend copyright, but I think the most important thing to know is that just because someone is dead, copyright does not stop.

·   You can use government publications freely—copyright does not apply. Here is the link to the US Copyright Office. It is full of useful information. I found the FAQ page useful.

The easiest way to avoid problems is to simply ask permission. Most sources are willing to grant permission. However, you will find some problems in this area. A researcher who was published in a journal probably has signed the copyright over to the publisher, so you must ask the publisher for permission.

In future posts I plan to:

·   Review how the Fair Use limitation benefits you and how good record keeping can protect your use of copyright-protected items

·   Explore the Creative Commons licenses

Note: All links are to Wikipedia, which is licensed by a CC-BY-SA license and the US Copyright Office. This is a government entity, so copyright does not apply.

Add a Comment
Comments (1):
4/8/2012 8:55:12 PM by Lindsey Hoggle

This is very helpful information! I hope you will keep blogging about this and continue some additional examples!

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