As a creator, the great thing about the internet is that you can upload your work and share it with people around the world for very little cost. The downside to this, however, is that people can illegally download and copy your work without your permission. This is why it is very important to protect the words, images, music and films you put on the internet. Here, in Part 2 of a 2 part series on blog writing, Emily Shoemark focuses on copyright infringement issues facing blog writers. Part 1 discusses how you can protect your IP rights as a blog writer.

Be proactive with your copyright

Copyright will only protect your original work if you take steps to enforce your rights and prevent infringement. This means taking steps to protect what you upload, as discussed in Part 1 of this series, but also being vigilant to identify any possible infringements.

  • Work out  if you want to allow anyone to use your work, and if so the limitations, before putting any material online, for example:
    • Can people buy it online?
    • Can people download it?
    • Is it available for private use only, or can it be used in public?
  • Make sure that people know you are the copyright owner of your work and what they can do with your work.
  • Use a search engine to see if other people are using your material.

What if my copyright has been breached?

Copyright law protects the republishing of writers’ works without permission. However, copyright laws are frequently breached on the internet and it can be difficult to take legal steps to enforce these rights.
Even when a person knows who, when and where their copyright was infringed, they will face the difficulty of deciding what to do about it.

  1. You can send an email or letter, demanding the other person stop publishing or pay for the work.
  2. If the communication is not answered, you may need to work with your lawyer to have a more formal letter of demand sent.
  3. The next step can be to contact the internet service provider (ISP) hosting a website containing infringing material directly. However, many ISPs will only take action once legal proceedings are have determined that infringement has taken place.
  4. Formal legal action would involve making an application to the court to get an order declaring that your copyright has been infringed, getting some injunctive relief to stop the infringement and possible financial compensation, for example, an account for the profits lost as a result of the infringement.

Copyright will not protect your idea from the creation of a similar idea. Copyright laws will vary in each country, but Australia is, fortunately, a part of several treaties to ensure that works are protected internationally. This is especially important for businesses that have their ideas online and exposed to a worldwide audience.

Including other people’s work in your blog

When you create your own blog you are creating copyright protected material, but you may also want to use material that is owned by someone else. It is always a good idea to assume that others’ work is protected by copyright until you are able to confirm otherwise. Do not assume that what you find on the internet can be used by you, or is freeware just because it is on the internet.
If you cannot rely on a fair dealing exception, you must obtain the copyright owners permission. You do not necessarily need a written agreement with every contributor to your blog – verbal permission is fine – but obtaining something in writing makes the terms of the licence (permission) clear to everyone.
If your blog allows users to post content, there are some important points to keep in mind.

  • You should consider how to best manage content that users may post to your blog and other user-generated content. As the publisher of a blog or website, you can be liable for the infringement of copyright by users even if you are not directly responsible for posting the material to your blog.
  • If a person posts material to your blog you can rely upon an implied contractual right to continue to publish their material on your blog –because the user chose to post the material to your blog, a right is implied for you to publish it. However such an implied right does not cover copyright works owned by someone else, but which have been posted by the user. The implied right is also limited to publishing the material on that blog – the implied licence does not permit you to publish the material in other media.
  • It is important to have tailored user terms and conditions for your website to ensure that you are protected against liability for content published by users, and that users take responsibility for their own publications

How can Snedden Hall & Gallop help you?

If you think there has been a breach of your intellectual property rights we can work with you to produce a letter of demand. If you have any questions about protecting your intellectual property rights, please contact Emily Shoemark and our intellectual property team on (02) 6285 8000 or by email.

Further reading: Part 1 discusses how you can protect your IP rights as a blog writer.