Copyright 101: Protect Yourself and Your Business
Disclaimer: We are not attorneys and please do not interpret anything written below as legal advice. If you have an IP or Copyright issue, we always recommend contacting an attorney to discuss.
When posting things to your private practice website, it can sometimes be too easy to find yourself on the wrong side of copyright laws accidentally. You must be very careful. Something that seems like a harmless little push of a button can end up causing your practice a lot of pain. Digital copyright rules can be hard to keep straight, especially when you don’t hear much about them.
Much of the time, the Internet can seem like a massive playground, without many rules. But, in reality, there are quite a few laws that help to govern users. Rules such as copyright help keep intellectual property thieves in check – whether the theft is intentional or not.
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Let me paint a picture for you…
You want to replace an old image on your website with something new. You want a relaxing and beautiful image being the first thing people see on your site, and an image of a waterfall comes to mind. So, you head over to Google and search for the obvious “images of waterfalls”.
You scroll through the image results and find a beautiful relaxing picture of a waterfall, just like what you were looking for! Copying that image to your page would be so quick and easy. BUT WAIT – it might also be illegal.
Using a random image you found off Google in your latest blog post (or copying some content you really liked from another therapist’s ‘About Me’ page) might seem harmless at the time, but is actually an act of intellectual property theft.
But don’t worry! In this article, we’re going to break everything down into simple terms, to help keep you and your business from crossing over to the wrong side of copyright law.
What You Need to Know to Protect Your Private Practice Website
When looking for free-content for your private practice website, things get a bit more delicate. We are going to walk you through some of the ways you can identify which images are copyrighted and which images are free to use.
Signs To Look For:
1. Copyright Symbols
One way to check if a piece of content is available for you to use freely for your business is to check what kind of copyright licenses they have. These are usually represented with icons, like this one:
Creative Commons & Public Domain Symbols = Safe to Use
When you spot the symbol on the left with two “C”s, it means that piece of content has a creative commons license which allows the free use of that content under certain restrictions. The copyright symbol on the right with the “C” crossed out is the sign that the piece of content has a public domain license and is completely free for your use. Public domain content usually does not have an attributable author for whatever reason, so you can use them freely on your practice website without ever asking for permission.
This Copyright Symbol = Don’t USE
Any content (text, images, videos, music, etc.) that is marked with the copyright symbol above should NOT be used without first receiving permission from the creator.
Businesses using watermarked images from stock photography libraries on their social media channels and blog posts, even in some cases on their web pages and printed materials. If you use a watermarked image on any of your marketing materials, digital or print, without written permission from the rights holder, then you are infringing the copyright of that watermarked image.
Images can have a wide variety of different watermark symbols that are used to dissuade people from stealing photos without permission. Although it might seem like a loophole, it is important to note that cropping off the bottom corner where the watermark is located does not make it legal.
Why You Can’t Rely On Google Images
It’s easy to type an idea or a word into Google and find the perfect picture for your blog or website but sadly when you google something you can’t just take any picture you like from Google images. That’s because Google’s image search doesn’t pay attention to commercial copyright licenses. It shows you all of the images it can find related to your search and puts the responsibility of copyright issues on your shoulders. While there might be some free-to-use images that pop up with your results but you must be willing to do the research to make sure that any images you find off google are free to use.
Google is just one of many possible sources for your website images, however. There are many quality online databases where you can search for commercially free-to-use images in a more focused way.
Where to Get Free-Use Images
However, if you are willing to spend purchasing stock photo images is a legal way to get quality images. There are hundreds of different stock photos sites you can buy images from including, Big Stock, Shutterstock, Getty Images, and Istock.
** Attention: Phishing Scam Alert **
Unfortunately, we’ve recently heard reports from a couple of clients being contacted by someone claiming to be a professional photographer. These clients received an email (or were notified through their website’s contact form) that the sender had found images on their website that had been used without permission and, if they were not removed immediately, legal action will be taken.
These emails typically contain a link which the recipient is instructed to click in order to view the pictures in question. In phishing attempts, fraudulent links that appear legitimate are a common tactic used to gain access to personal information. A general best practice for using email is that if you cannot verify the identity of someone sending you an email, or even if something seems strange, is to avoid clicking any links.
If you are a Brighter Vision client and receive one of these copyright infringement emails, or any suspicious email for that matter, please reach out to our support team at email@example.com to let us know.
Where to Get Free-Use Blog Posts
When it comes to using written content that is not yours, make sure you either paid for it to be written, or that it is public domain, or that you have permission by the creator to use the content commercially. If you do not have any of these three allowances, don’t use the writing on your site.
Writing your own content is always the safest bet when it comes to free use. It is also always safe to hire a freelance writer to do the writing for you. Upwork is a great place to start looking for freelancer help if you’re in need.
Pro Tip: If you’re part of the Brighter Vision family and use our automated blogging service, Social Genie, you are free to post all of our pre-written blog posts to your private practice blog- saving you an incredible amount of time, and the risk of a copyright lawsuit. We own the copyright to all of our professionally written Social Genie blog articles and therefore have the right to sell licenses for those articles to whomever we want. The reason it’s not copyright infringement when you use those articles on your practice site is because we’ve already agreed to sell them to you through your monthly subscription.
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Where to Get Free-Use Videos
Video can be a powerful eye-catcher on your practice website, and luckily, video becomes a little bit easier in terms of copyright rules because all of YouTube is actually public domain. This means that you can freely embed any video already on YouTube on your private practice website. So any video lectures, meditation exercises, or whatever you’d like to use from YouTube is free and legal for you to use.
Now you see that even with all the legalese floating around the issue, preventing yourself from accidentally committing intellectual property theft isn’t all that complicated. It basically comes down to this: double-check the copyright license on the content or go to a website you trust that only hosts free-to-use content for commercial use.
Still Unsure About What Is Free-Use and What Is not?
Reach out today to become a Brighter Vision Customer and a professional website developer will build a beautiful, custom website for your practice. And since our developers only get our content from safe sources, you’ll never have to worry about copyright issues from the content we put on your site.