Saturday, February 20, 2016

6 things you need to know about copyright

For a beginning blogger, Instagrammer, Facebooker etc, it's hard to find out what exactly intellectual property and copyright entails and what you're allowed to do when it comes to posting other people's content. Copyrights entail much more than just the use of someone's actual picture and/or video so I'll leave that to the experts and only talk about using someone's actual work. I've invested a good amount of time brushing up on my understanding of copyright and I'll translate it into normal people speak for you. Come find out what copyright really means!

Let's look at the lingo first. To keep this post easy to understand, I'll stick to what's relevant to bloggers and social media owners in the beauty genre.

Intellectual property is anything you make in the creative sense, i.e. a photo, a work of art (digital or otherwise), a video, a song or other piece of music, written text, and everything in between. The original maker has the exclusive right to determine what happens to intellectual property, who gets to use it and in what way. You don't have to file for it, it's immediately yours as soon as you click a photo, paint a work of art or record a song. You made it, it's yours.

Infringement occurs when you're using someone else's intellectual property without their knowledge and/or permission. Not good. It can have minor repercussions such as the picture or video being removed from your account or website, to even getting your account or website removed completely. On YouTube, you can get a strike on your account that disables the use of certain features on the YouTube website.

It can also lead to bigger problems, like getting sued for infringement. You definitely don't want this! Fines can run up to thousands of dollars. Pretty hefty fine for a mistake, so make sure you know what you can and can't do.

Things that don't make infringement okay:
   - You didn't know any better at the time
   - You apologize
   - You edited the picture
   - Your account is personal and/or you make no money with it
   - You have a disclaimer saying something like 'not all of these pictures are mine'
   - You found it on the internet *facepalm*
   - You link back to the source

About that last one, most nail artists won't have a problem if you link back to their blog or social media. I even have a special license that gives people permission to use my pictures with a link back so that it's not actually infringement anymore. This is called a Creative Commons license.

Creative Commons licenses are free and they don't require registration. You simply post a notice on your profile or blog saying what kind of license you have and what people are and aren't allowed to do, like I did here (this page also has my disclaimer which has nothing to do with this subject). For more info about this, the best place to find it is the actual Creative Commons website. You'll also want to dive into the YouTube copyright page, they have loads and loads of easy to understand information and most of it is applicable to other social media as well.

The thing with infringement is, eventually, someone will find out and you'll get burned, either lightly singed or full on nuclear burns. The easiest way to avoid committing infringement is to only use your own works. You can also get permission from the owner to use their works in a certain way.

There are some circumstances that make it okay to use someone else's material without it being copyright infringement. This is called 'fair use'. You are free to use such material as long as it's either for educational purposes, or to comment, criticize or parody a certain work. This does NOT include posting it on Instagram and asking 'yay or nay?' (also, that's just rude). It's pretty vague as to what falls under this category so before choosing to go with this kind of (non-)infringement, do your research!

Is someone infringing on your own copyrights? Sadly, this happens a lot. If you find that someone has taken your content and you want it removed, you can file a DMCA take down notice. This stands for Digital Millennium Copyright Act and it's a simple online form that you can fill out to have your content removed if you can prove that you've made it (proving that you've uploaded it first is usually enough). DO NOT use this to take down content that isn't yours! Treat it as what it is, a legal document, and only provide accurate, truthful information.

You can also add watermarks so that if someone takes your stuff without your permission and without linking back to your social media account, at least you'll have your name on it so that people can still find your account if they search for it. I had to find out the hard way that corner watermarks can be cropped out easily so I had to add a second watermark, which is what a lot of bloggers are starting to do nowadays. In rare cases, people will still use Photoshop to obscure and remove watermarks. Nothing you can do to prevent this except not post your images & videos, which is not what we want! Content with the watermarks removed can still be taken down with a DMCA notice so teach those bastards a lesson!

If you've read this whole monster of a post and are thinking to yourself "but I've used images before and never got caught"... well... do you really want to take the chance? Personally, I wouldn't be able to blog with a clear conscience if I'd knowingly taken someone else's hard work without their permission. I'd pee my pants if I ever got a letter saying I owed $8000 for posting a single photo that belonged to someone else. Oops...

DISCLAIMER I'm no legal expert so any info given in this blog post can't be used as professional advice. Seek the assistance of a qualified lawyer if you need legal advice. 

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