For anyone who runs a blog, small business, or even a marketing department, the Internet is where much of your customer interaction and marketing occurs. There are pictures someone has already taken that would be perfect to set the mood for your new campaign, theme music that you can add to your cool video footage, and written content on every subject. For developers, there is free code you can grab and incorporate into your work. There are even free contract templates for lawyers to use!
All of this information is easy to find and access. Just a click of the button and now that photo is on your desktop, ready for your use. It’s so easy, you may forget to check the license agreement of anything you download from the internet that you plan to use for commercial purposes. So download and share those funny memes, but if you’re trying to sell goods, services, or solicit funds for your blog, then pay attention to the license agreement and associated copyright. Even small blogs that bring in some revenue are commercial. It’s much easier to make sure all material is unique and your own creation or that you have the appropriate license agreement in place.
If you purchase music or images from a stock photography site, for example, they will come with a license agreement that clearly states how they can be used. Photos purchased from Associated Press, for example, are sold based on average viewer counts. In other circumstances, if you’re getting code sections from Stack Overflow or sourcing images from Flickr creative commons, they have a commercial license agreement, but it’s probably at the bottom of the page. You want to check the license agreement to make sure it works for you:
- Allows commercial Use
- Does not require attribution (or if it does, that’s fine so long as you can do so)
- Does not require you to release your work under a similar license (called a share-alike license)
In Fortune 100 size corporations, there is someone in the legal department who is responsible for reviewing every license agreement for any code or image that developers or marketing wants to include in their work. For smaller businesses who don’t have in-house council, it’s a good idea to talk to an experience business attorney who can give you guidelines on the types of details to look for in license agreements and can quickly review any you’re concerned about.
Businesses should also keep on file a copy of the license agreement for information they pull. Saving these agreements can help you if there’s a question about your use or about the ownership of materials. If there’s a question about whether you purchased an appropriate license, you can produce a receipt and documentation. If you’ve put together a compilation you’re trying to copyright, then you’ll need to be able to point to what’s your original work and what you used form someone else. A little extra work downloading the appropriate license agreement can save you frustration or even a lost purchase in the long run.
If you need guidance pulling material from the internet, be sure to reach out to Virtus Law Firm by calling 612.888.1000 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition to guidance about license agreements, we can help you document assignment of invention for new companies, work-for-hire agreements when you hire a photographer, and copyright and trademark filings.