Free speech, copyright and the Internet seem to collide, but that’s because they are all still evolving. Dr. Patricia Aufderheide, director of the Center for Social Media, American University, gave guidance on this very topic during the AWC-DC program on March 19. She used an example from the 1860s, when a German translation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin was not covered under copyright law, but now would be covered. At the time, one-third of the country spoke German.
You need to understand how “Fair Use” can be used correctly, says Dr. Aufderheide. If you are “adding value” to the information and using it in a new way, then you are most likely covered under the Fair Use Doctrine. Using the entire work without adding valuable information, would be considered an infringement on copyright. Generally, sourcing a portion of the information with a link back to the original document would be considered fair use, explains Dr. Aufderheide.
Many journalists say their use of information is covered under the First Amendment of the Constitution. What they need to understand is that First Amendment is a part of copyright law, says Dr. Aufderheide.
The protests over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) lead to more awareness of copyrighted materials on the Internet. Dr. Aufderheide believes the best way to address the issue is to look at business practices. She thinks that blocking domain names, which will work against security, is not a viable answer. She also says businesses need to find a way to let people use copyrighted material legally.
Pinterest and Copyright
Pinterest is fast becoming this year’s social media sweatheart. (Understand Pinterest and Your Audience.) Many PR folks have asked if the social media site is violating copyright. The answer is maybe. In a recent Mashable story, The Copyright Question: How to Protect Yourself on Pinterest, the authors suggest that companies should only pin their own content and only include content they would include on their website. While Pinterest does not own “everything posted on the site […] posting other people’s pictures without permission could be problematic.”
BurrellesLuce has many free resources in the BurrellesLuce Resource Center to help the PR professional do their job even better and offers a turnkey copyright compliance program to help clients remain on the right side of copyright law.