Tricounty News

The importance of copyright

“I got it off the Internet, and the internet is free, so I can use it, right?”


The subject comes up several times a week. It might be a story, poem, photo, recipe, or a graphic.

Some understand that we can’t reprint something that’s been printed on paper without getting permission. But explaining internet copyrights is a bit more tricky. 

The reality is that just about everything that’s been created – written, drawn, painted, photographed – has copyrights attached to it. It might be the person who created it who owns the copyright. Or it might be an employer or publisher.

For instance, everything in our newspaper is covered by a copyright. It is against the law to reproduce anything from our newspaper without our written permission. Most newspapers, and most websites, have such copyrights. 

A copyright protects the person who created something, or the entity that paid for its creation.

Within the protection of copyright, anyone can make a copy of something for their own personal use. Similar to recorded music rights, you can make a personal mix CD to listen to in the car, but it is illegal to copy and sell someone else’s music, no matter how it is shared or sold.

It may seem as if everyone in the world is on Facebook. And it would seem that everything there is up for the taking. This is not the case. While one may be able to download a photo from Facebook, the copyright belongs to the creator of it (and to Facebook, too, by the way). We would request permission to use it before printing it in the paper.

Why mention any of this?

For one thing, we are frequently asked to print something in our paper to which someone else owns the copyright. We do our best to track down the copyright owner and to make a written request for permission to use it. Often this is granted, but it takes time.

For another, we’ve noticed that some people either don’t understand or don’t respect copyrights. They use materials that they didn’t create, without acknowledging the author, and without obtaining any kind of permission.

It’s not fair to the author, and it’s not fair to the rest of us who follow the rules.

In researching this topic, I discovered that each incident of copyright infringement carries a mandatory fine of $750. There also can be civil and punitive damages if a law suit is filed.

This is one reason we are so particular about copyrights.

Primarily, though, it’s just the right thing to do, regardless of whether one gets “caught” or punished.

We value and respect the creative process, whether it’s ours or someone else’s. We hope that you do, too.

© 2013, Tri-County News