This section provides information on obtaining licenses for material on the Web, including sound, written content, video and graphics, so you can avoid Copyright infringement.
Sound is protected under the law in two ways. The composition of the sound, such as the lyrics and the musical instruments involved is protected by Title 17, the United States Copyright Act. But the actual recording of the sound is copywritten as well, in a different chapter under Title 17. The recording of sound provision exists because compositions may be performed by more than one performerand each performance can sound completely unique, even though it's the same original composition.
This dual protection for sound means its especially important for you to know where your sound is coming from, and whether or not it's under a Copyright. Unless you create the sound yourself, hire someone to create the sound for you, or purchase a sound CD, you can assume it's copywritten by someone. It's up to you to contact that someone, and obtain permission from them before you use the sound yourself.
Written Content, Video and Graphics
Like sound; written content, video, and graphics are also protected under the Copyright Law. If it's on the Web, it's most likely copywritten. If you use someone elses' artwork, videos or content on your Web site, you are most likely breaking the law.
Written words are illegal to copy, regardless of whether they're printed in a novel, a newspaper, a brochureor on a Web page. Instead of copying someone else's words, link to their site, or ask the author for permission to quote excerpts from their content on your site. Always attribute the author of an excerptor even if you are using someone's else's content as a base for your content.
Under copyright law, it is illegal to reproduce a video unless you either own the copyright, or have obtained permission to reproduce it. Reproduction on the Web means showing that video. Before you use video on your Web site, make sure you have permission form all parties involvedthat is, everyone in the video and the copyright holder of the video. If you've downloaded or purchased a video from a video distributor, make sure they've obtained model releases from every person in the video. Model releases are usually written contracts in which one person authorizes another to use their picture, or a video of them, for public display.
You should always obtain model releases for your own videos as well, even home videos, to protect yourself from someone demanding their image be taken off public display.
Images, such as pictures of graphics, can also present problems. Scanning photographs that you own doesn't release you from all copyright issues either. Just because you scan it, doesn't mean you own it, or can do anything you want with it. It's best to have people in your photographswhether they're strangers or notsign model releases, authorizing you to publish their picture over the Internet.
If you don't own a picture or graphic, but would like to use it anyway, you must arrange an agreement with the creator of the work. Many people, instead of asking an artist if they could use an image, chose to simply link to the image instead.
Linking to someone else's work, while presenting it as if it's your own, isn't a very good idea. Without warning, the owner or creator of the illustration or graphic could decide to remove it form their site, or alter it in some unpredictable way. You could be left with either a broken image, or an image you would never have linked to.
Under most circumstances, you can obtain a license to use copywritten material, or portions of material, simply by contacting the person who created the material. In the case of musicians and performers, you may need to contact the record label or record company. In the case of authors, you may need to contact the publisher, or a main editor. You can send the company or organization an email, explaining who you are, what material you'd like to useand most importantly, why you want to use that material, and where you want to use it. Most likely you'll be granted permission to use the material, unless the material is trademarked or is identified specifically with that company. The person, or company who owns the Copyright will most likely let you know whether it's ok to use the material, under what circumstances you may use the material, where and how you use the material, and whether or not you may alter it.
If you fail to comply with these requests, you may be liable for Copyright infringement. Remember, they own the Copyright, you don't.
Often, the Copyright holder will charge a small fee, or perhaps royalties when they grant permission to you to use the sound. Again, if you fail to comply with this request, and use the sound anyway, you could be held liable for Copyright infringement.
If you're having a tough time contacting a specific company or artist, keep in mind that companies exist to do all the work for you. For a fee, these companies obtain the license for you to use the sounds you want to use. Below is a list of some companies on the Web that offer licensing services for sound, video and graphics, or can provide information on how to go about obtaining licenses:
- Copyright Resources is a Maryland-based company that helps negotiate licensing for copywritten material.
- The Parker Music Group helps you obtain copyright for music in all forms of media, including the Web.
- The Harry Fox Agency is a division of the National Musician's Publishers Association, and is a group that helps people obtain licenses for sound.
- BMI is an organization that represents, and distributes royalties to songwriters, composers, and music publishers, for the public performance and digital use of their sound. BMI's Web site also contains information about pending legislation regarding sound on the Web.
- ASCAP which stands for The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, is another licensing organization. ASCAP's site also provides resources and current legislative information about Copyright on their site.
- Freecenter contains free graphics collections, available for download.