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
· 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
· 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.