Today’s guest blogger is business attorney Jean Sifleet, and she writes concerning the misconceptions about, and the possible penalties for, using content “found” on-line. To learn more about Jean’s firm, visit www.smartfast.com
It’s a common misconception that if you found it on the Internet, it’s free and you can use it. While information on the Internet is “public,” it’s not all in the “public domain.” According to Wikipedia,
Public domain comprises the body of knowledge and innovation (especially creative works such as writing, art, music, and inventions) in relation to which no person or other legal entity can establish or maintain proprietary interests within a particular legal jurisdiction. This body of information and creativity is considered to be part of a common cultural and intellectual heritage, which, in general, anyone may use or exploit, whether for commercial or non-commercial purposes. Only about 15 percent of all books are in the public domain, and 10 percent of all books that are still in print.
Sometimes content on the Internet is in the public domain and free to use, but frequently it is not. Penalties for infringing a copyright can include payment of statutory damages (between $750 and $150,000 per infringement) and attorney fees. Before you use content you “found,” it’s smart to check out the rules: What’s In The Public Domain?