Caution: Cutting and Pasting Could Get You Sued

Jul 9, 2010 10:12:28 AM

Google may have emerged victorious in Viacom’s landmark $1 billion copyright case over infringing YouTube videos, but don’t misinterpret the ruling. YouTube was under a Safe Harbor provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

FACT: Cutting and pasting articles for use in your real estate marketing efforts don’t fall under that Safe Harbor—and it could get you sued. Recently, there had been an onslaught of lawsuits filed against individual bloggers and companies with websites that copy material from newspapers.

To protect yourself and your company from liability, never display, reproduce or distribute copyright protected works. This rule applies as equally to blogs, website articles, and social media postings, as it does to good, old-fashioned written and printed material.

In a nutshell, state and federal copyright laws protect original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression. So, the copyright owner has the exclusive rights to reproduce the work, create derivative works, distribute copies to the public, and display the work publicly. The creator of the work owns the copyright whether or not the copyright is registered or whether a copyright notice is included in the work.

The proliferation of electronic media has made the transfer of information from one person to another easier and more efficient than ever. This does not mean that because we have the physical ability to copy and paste news articles, that we can do so legally.

Do not think that by giving the particular newspaper credit for copied materials that you are protected from being sued in a copyright infringement case. Any copying of work, whether it be from a news source or otherwise, is prohibited without express written permission from the creator of the work. Keep these rules in mind as you continue to build your business online!