It’s an ever-evolving world we live in with regards to content. It changes so fast and can spread from one forum to another in a matter of seconds. As a PR professional, it’s important to understand basic copyright law and what the copyright implications and restrictions are in order to keep yourself and your clients/business in compliance.
First – what do copyrights protect?
“Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed.”
Second – when does your work become protected?
“Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.”
Third – can you distribute others’ content?
If it’s articles and other publications, work with monitoring or clipping services that have secured permissions to distribute content.
The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) has more helpful information, including information about the consequences of content infringement:
Infringement drives up the cost publishers must charge to all law-abiding consumers.
If the content you are using has been illegally copied and distributed, you will not be able to contact the copyright owner with questions or problems.
Digital infringers increase their risk of catching a debilitating virus that can destroy valuable data.
Infringers may find that the content is actually an outdated or incorrect version.
Infringers risk potential negative publicity and public and private embarrassment.
So, whether it’s your content you want to protect, or ensuring that you’re not violating copyrights on other people’s content, bookmark SIIA and the U.S. Copyright Office webpages and check in with them frequently.