What happens when you find some really great information online and you think you should share it with your community group? Do you just download it and add it into the newsletter, or email it around? Do you take a minute first to check the copyright information? [First published August 2006. Some details may be a bit dated.]
Free of charge doesn’t mean free of copyright
I was shocked last month to be reading a newsletter from a local group, only to find one article very familiar: it was one I’d written the previous week on my own website, but there was no indication of where it had come from. The title, my name and the web address had all been removed.
I write many free tutorials. People are welcome to send them on to others, provided my name is still attached. I have a Creative Commons copyright statement on my site, laying out the terms. But this was theft, and I was extremely annoyed!
It’s a small world
It turned out the editor of this particular newsletter had thought the article came from overseas, because it used some US spellings. Perhaps ignoring copyright isn’t supposed to count, if you think you can get away with it …But the world’s a small place, and we all have more connections than is immediately obvious.
Be honest and ethical
There’s a universe of free content that community groups can use, and most of us want to share what we find, for the benefit of all.
When you use a photo, or an article, or a paragraph that you find online first look for a copyright statement. Many people allow you to use some or all of their content. If they do, then be sure to attribute what you’ve used. This may be a couple of lines at the end of a printed newsletter, like this:
“Photos in this newsletter were taken from Free Stock Photos, http://example.com, and used with permission.”
“Give credit where it’s due” was first published in CommunityNet Aotearoa Panui, August 2006, http://www.community.net.nz/Panui.”
If you aren’t allowed to use the material you find on a website then you have two choices:
- Contact the copyright holder and ask for permission. You’ll need to specify who you are (eg a non-profit group) and what you want to use the material for. It’s likely to be important to say whether or not you will derive some financial benefit from reproducing the work.
- Summarise the work or quote a very small portion of it, for example, one short paragraph, and include an acknowledgement identifying the title of the work and its author.
You’d probably also want to include a link to the original material, giving the URL in full. This would reinforce the “sufficient acknowledgement” for the online version, however sites change and links break, so it is not enough by itself.
If the material is used for the purpose of review or criticism or reporting current events, this is a sufficient acknowledgement for the purpose of the (New Zealand) Copyright Act 1994 and protects against a claim for breach of copyright. The effect is to provide readers with sufficient information to find the original source and to make them aware of whose work is being copied.
Get a lawyer
Copyright is a complex business, especially on the Internet, given that the laws and regulations from more than one country may be involved. If you have any doubts at all about how you may use material you’ve found on the web or via email then you should consult a copyright lawyer, regardless of any suggestions in this article.
Useful New Zealand resources
Copyright Licensing Ltd was established by the Book Publishers Association of New Zealand Inc. in 1988 and is now jointly owned by BPANZ and the New Zealand Society of Authors.
The Copyright Council of New Zealand was incorporated in 1983 as a non-profit society to provide copyright and cultural based industries with a range of services including an interface with Government. It currently has 20 members representing a wide spectrum of copyright creators and owners.
Intellectual Property Office: This New Zealand Government website provides information on patents, trade marks and designs.
Intellectual Property Policy, Ministry of Economic Development:
Creative Commons Aotearoa New Zealand are adapting the Creative Commons licences to New Zealand law and aim to foster a creative community premised on remixable creativity. Other high priorities are promoting the value of Creative Commons licences for the dissemination of educational content and academic research, and initiating discussion about an indigenous CC licence.
Written for and reproduced from CommunityNet Aotearoa Panui, August 2006. This article may have been modified from the original and is written from a New Zealand perspective.