Understanding Copyright Law: Essential Guide for Protecting Your Digital Content
As a business owner, there are so many different legal things to implement and it can be so tricky to know which ones apply to you and which ones don’t.
Here at The Boutique Lawer, we aim to make the sometimes daunting legal world more approachable with tons of value packed content and resources so you can confidently protect your brand, your profits and your life’s work.
Even though there are lots of different legal things that apply to lots of different people, depending on the industry you’re in or type of work you do, there are also a lot of the SAME things that every business owner needs to implement.
In this blog post, I dive into 6 Important Ways to Legally Protect Your Small Business and those 6 things apply to any business owner reading this, regardless of your industry.
Even though everything listed in that post is SUPER important, in this blog specifically I want to dive into one of the things that’s often overlooked from that list.
Without having this one clause in place, people could steal your content and other creations and use it as their own… and there’s nothing you could do about it.
You could consider this as a prerequisite to creating and posting content…
The clause in question? Copyright!
You’ve probably heard of it before and you’ve definitely probably seen it on other websites or things you’ve purchased.
It’s usually in the footer of websites and other content that looks like this: “© 2020-2023 The Boutique Lawyer.”
But what does it mean exactly? What types of work does a copyright protect? What rights and protection do you have as a business owner when it comes to copyright?
That’s exactly what we’re going to dive into!
What Is a Copyright Notice?
First things first, what even is a copyright notice?
The copyright symbol looks like this – © – and is usually followed by the year you first published the piece of work and the year it was last updated, followed by the name of the copyright owner, brand or business.
Put simply, a copyright notice like this is a statement that should be placed on any piece of work that you create to inform the public that the work is protected by copyright and to assert the rights of you, the copyright owner.
Essentially, this statement tells people, “Hey, just so you know, I’m claiming the rights to this work, so if you steal my stuff, you’re doing it willfully.”
Including a copyright clause on ANYTHING you create is the first step in protecting yourself and your business in the instance that someone does unfortunately steal or copy your content.
If it ever came to that, in order to seek real legal action, you would then need to actually register your copyright – I talk more about that here!
Ultimately, copyright IS automatic whenever you publish your work or content, which means that you DO have rights to the content, but official registration is not automatic.
Types of Work Protected By Copyright
As mentioned, it’s important to include a copyright clause on anything you create in order to fully protect all of your digital assets.
And when I say anything… I really do mean it!
Copyright law provides protection on things like:
- Literary works (do I have any authors in the house?!)
- Downloadable PDFs and templates (that means your freebies and lead magnets!)
- Pictorial, and graphic works
- Virtual courses, agendas, and trainings (course creators, I’m looking at you)
- Social media posts and graphics (YES, your social content can be copyrighted)
- Product listing descriptions (hello online shop owners!)
- Musical works, including any accompanying words (psst: this is why you can’t use songs in ads – more on this here!)
- Dramatic works, including any accompanying music
- Pantomimes and choreographic works
- Motion pictures and other audiovisual works
- Sound recordings (do you have a podcast? It can be protected!)
- Architectural works
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it gives you a pretty good idea of what can be protected under copyright law!
How to Comply with Copyright Law on Social Media
The main cause of copyright confusion happens online, especially with the boom of online businesses and many people using social media to market.
Many times people don’t realize that they are actually infringing on copyright laws, even though it doesn’t feel like it…
For example, have you ever screenshot someone else’s post and used it on your account?
Even IF you credit them, that’s technically copyright infringement if you didn’t first get permission from the original creator.
Soooo, how exactly do you navigate social media without infringing on copyright laws?
It can be tricky, especially when most platforms, such as Instagram for example, allows users to share images and videos of themselves or others for public viewing and, hopefully, recognition.
Very generally speaking, users of social media applications like Instagram typically post original material, so they have little concern about infringing on someone else's copyright.
However, copyright concerns do arise whenever someone else's original content is reposted by another user.
It’s fairly clear that by copying another person's pictures or other creative content and using those pictures or content for your own gain, copyright infringement is occurring.
The question is, how can authors protect themselves from an honest mistake that resulted in a copyright violation?
- Use Only Original Content – post original content, or, if possible, change the copied content to the extent that you can claim a "modicum" of creativity.
- Ask for Permission – remember that the definition of infringement includes the language "without permission." If you have permission, you're not infringing.
- Consider Permitted Uses – copyright law allows even otherwise infringing use if that use qualifies as "Fair Use." Whether a use qualifies as fair use depends on balancing four factors: the purpose of the use, the nature of the work, the amount used, and the effect upon the potential market.
How To Implement Copyright Clauses In Your Business
Our hope is that you never have to seek legal action due to copyright infringement, but we’re also aware that it happens.
When or if that ever occurs, we’re here to help! At The Boutique Lawyer we work with small business owners to bring clarity to the intellectual property issues that threaten your business and your livelihood.
We’re entrepreneurs too, which means we know what you put on the line to make your business a success, so if you have copyright related questions, don’t hesitate to reach out.
Until then, make sure you’re protecting yourself in the beginning by implementing a simple copyright clause as soon as TODAY!
COPYRIGHT NOTICE FORMULA: © [INSERT FIRST YEAR OF PUBLICATION] – [INSERT YEAR IT WAS LAST UPDATED] [INSERT LEGAL BUSINESS NAME].
SAMPLE COPYRIGHT NOTICE STATEMENT: This resource is protected by copyright laws and international treaties. Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this resource, or any portion thereof, may result in severe civil and criminal penalties, and will be prosecuted to the maximum extent possible under the law.
And if you sell digital products, take the extra steps needed to make sure ALL of your products are protected by downloading my free Copyright Notice Template for Digital Products!