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How to Avoid Copyright Infringement

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Copyright infringement was cut and dry before the internet and more difficult to accomplish. Now, thanks to modern technology, the rules have become complicated and muddled. Because of this, many people commit it blindly.

February 24, 2020
Author: Amber Ornelas

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But whether done maliciously or innocently, if someone files a lawsuit against your business for copyright infringement, the courts will only recognize that it was committed.

As a small business owner more open to public scrutiny, you need to be well-versed with copyright laws and twice as careful when procuring images, videos, music, or intellectual property for your company.

In this article, you’ll learn some practical ways you can avoid copyright infringement so you can operate your business with confidence and integrity.

Know what’s protected and what’s not

Music and movies are the first things that come to mind when people think of copyrighted material, and for good reason. These two forms of entertainment suffer the most from copyright infringement. But they are far from the only things protected under the law:

  • Literary works
  • Paintings
  • Choreography
  • Drawings
  • Photographs
  • Sculpture
  • Music
  • Movies/films

Copyright laws don’t, however, protect facts or in most cases, the underlying ideas of creative work. Regardless, it’s always best to give credit where credit is due. If someone else’s idea inspired your own, cite them.

Purchase stock photos or take the picture yourself

Google is great but don’t use it to find images as you run the risk of running afoul of copyright laws. It’s best to either take the photo yourself (or hire a professional) or use stock photos. Stock photos are distributed under something called Creative Commons (CC) licenses which allow for “free and open re-use.” Set up an account with stock photography sites like Shutterstock or Adobe Stock, and for a monthly fee, you can download images. And while it’s not required, all the info you need to cite the photo is readily available.

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Be careful when downloading fonts

Sometimes the default fonts in your Microsoft Word document just don’t cut it. It’s common to use sites like DaFont.com or FontSquirrel.com to download additional fonts. But what some people may not realize is that just like photos can be copyrighted, so too can fonts. Luckily, reputable sites like the ones listed above have clearly defined licensing agreements from the designers themselves. Read these rules carefully. Some fonts are free to download for personal use but require a fee if you want to use them commercially. Others are for personal use only. If you want to avoid having to read licensing agreements, and don’t mind a smaller, less diverse collection of fonts, try Google Fonts. They’re free to use personally and commercially with the option to contribute to the designer.

When in doubt, don’t use it

At the end of the day, trust your gut. Are you having second thoughts about that image on your website? Don’t use it. Does that cute jingle you had composed for your commercial sound a little too much like a well-known tune? Don’t use it. Are the licensing requirements for that font unclear? Don’t use it. The time and money it would take to find another photo, compose another jingle, or find another font, won’t compare to the cost of a lawsuit should you not follow your gut and end up getting sued for copyright infringement.

Final words

As a business owner, you’re held to a higher standard. People expect your business to operate 100% above board, 100% of the time. And sadly, there are people out there looking to take advantage of a slip up for personal gain. Understand copyright laws inside and give credit where credit is due. That way, when the wolves come knocking, they won’t have a leg to stand on.

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