Online material and copyright

While commenting on the distinction between the professional and amateur Clair from Mummys Bracelet pointed to an interesting discussion (and here) in relation to this topic. The whole thing started when JonnyB was told be a neighbor that he was published in the newspaper The Mail on Sunday. This was news to JonnyB who found that The Mail had printed entire posts from his blog on their Blog of The Week section without permission.

OK – so it’s copyright violation. No biggie, nothing to blog about you might think. JonnyB sent an invoice and the Mail paid up. Problem solved? No, not really. The newspaper paid but it also wrote in response to JonnyB

We generally take the view that blogs published on the internet have already been placed in the public domain by their authors and, in case of amateur writers, most people are happy to have their work recognised and displayed to a wider audience.

The really strange thing that follows from this story is the misguided belief that what is online is somehow in the public domain and that these mistakes are being made not only by amateurs but also be the “professional” media. And this is despite the fact that the discussion on online copyright is almost as old as the internet.

When lecturing to my students I keep trying to push into their minds three steps:

1. Almost nothing online is outside copyright.

2. Assume everything is owned.

3. What risks will you be running by using other people material? (who do you represent)

Maybe I should start lecturing for the news media…

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