Copyright? Load of nonsense – everyone infringes copyright and nothing happens - what's all the fuss about?

Copyright is with everyone, every single minute of the day and night – radio, television, movies, newspapers, cereal packets (yes, really) all are subject to copyright. 

I hear you say – “I only listen to news on the radio, I don’t buy newspapers any more and I watch all my movies on my tablet or phone”. All well and good, but just because you now use digital media for your news, entertainment, personal and business communications, doesn’t mean that you can escape copyright.  Far from it – you are leaving a very good trail of digital footsteps and fingerprints all over what you do on your phone/tablet these days. 

That cartoon that you and all your “friends” and “contacts” have just liked, re-posted and shared – whose cartoon was it? Where did it come from? Did you have permission from the artist to make thousands of copies of it? That’s what you have just effectively done by sharing with your contacts who may go on to share it with their contacts – ad infinitum. 

How would you feel if you were that cartoonist, trying to make a living in a very crowded market place?  You come up with a winner, a real hoot that appeals to everyone, you sell it, for a small sum of money to a newspaper or magazine and next thing you know, it’s all over the internet – are you making any money from this amazing popularity? NO – are you even getting any acknowledgement that the cartoon is yours? NO (unless your signature is copied over along with the cartoon). 

Ok, copyright infringement happens – cartoons, clips of music, images, drawings – all circulated through the morass of social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all the others.  What risks are there to the individual?  Not many, in all honesty, but woe betide any company or other organisation that is carrying out such infringement, whether on purpose or otherwise.  Content creators and holders may well let the individual infringements pass by, but as an owner or manager of a business, you must be much more aware of the risks of copyright infringement. 

Getty Images, or any other internet based image gallery for that matter, may not be too fussed if I, as an individual, “use” one of their images in a personal post.  If I “use” the same image on my company website, however, that’s a different ball game completely.  I’m now “using” one of their images without payment, for the benefit of my business.  Can I “use” gas, water, electricity, for the benefit of my business without paying for these services? A resounding NO.  Getty and the other image galleries, see their services in line with those utilities.  You want to use images, music, cartoons, illustrations, logos for the benefit of your business?  Fine, then pay for them. Do you give your services and products away for free?  Very altruistic if you do, but not very profitable. 

I have no idea how many “Getty letters” are posted out each day – but I do know they exist, and I know that businesses are all too quick to pay off the penalties, not so much for the financial loss (which can still be significant) but for the reputational damage done to the company if the image gallery, or any other content owner decides to go public about your infringement.  “Getty letters” will be the subject of another blog post very soon – there are ways of dealing with them, if you know your way around copyright. 

If any of the above issues are of interest, I can help you find your way around copyright – that’s my business and I would be delighted to hear from anyone who has a question – happy to take the questions offline if necessary – no naming and shaming! 

Your guide to the copyright maze​

Don't Get Lost, Don't Get Confused, Don't Get Caught

Copyright without the jargon

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