Copyright Laws are Not KeepingUp with the Internet

Image Copyright Law

by Nikki Wardle: Guest Writer

The first copyright law was passed in 1710 by the British, known as the "An Act for the Encouragement of Learning". This copyright only covered book, but as forms of mediums grew such as music, photography and television, so did copyright laws.

Enter the Internet. This medium continues to shake the core of the copyright law world. One of the more popular cases was Lenz versus Universal Music Corp. In 2007 as very proud mother posted a video of her daughter's lip syncing to a Prince song, then posted it on Youtube for all the world to enjoy. Universal Music Corp was not amused and forced Youtube to take the video down because they felt the mother’s video violated their copyright of the song.

Thankfully Lenz (the mother) filed a suit against Universal for misrepresentation of the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) and won. This case set the stage for what is considered fair use and good faith use of certain mediums.

That being said, the case was eight years ago, and the Internet continues to grow and expand. The issue remains, what images can you use for free and what do you need to pay for?

Fair Use is not Free Use

There is no hard, concrete line of what is considered fair use and copyright infringement. It's more of a balance between the rights of the creator and public interest. There is must room for interpretation.

Currently, the fair use image copyright laws state that you are liable financially for posting copyrighted images, even if you:

  • used the image by accident
  • take down the image after receiving a cease and desist notice
  • modify the image from the original
  • link back and give the creator credit for the image
  • have the image embedded in your site instead of on your server

It is within a creator's legal right to sue a person or company for a million dollars or more (Agence France-Pesses paid 1.2 million) for copyright infringement. But does that make it right?

I don't think so. It boggles my mind that anyone can prove $10,000 or more in damages with an image that can be purchased on for $10. I don't see how that can add up. But whether I agree with it or not, the best advice I can give is: "buy it or don't use it".