Copyright Law and the Internet

The internet has made us all publishers and many of the copyright laws apply. The internet is not considered public domain and any original work, including photos, art and text, are protected even if there is no copyright notice.

If you receive a complaint about your website, the prudent course of action iss to immediately remove the material while you seek proof of ownership. If it comes to a court appearance, your immediate response will be viewed favorably.

There have been legal issues with certain types of linking. Currently, there is no problem with linking to the front page of a website. If you use another company’s logo (like Amazon.Com’s), or imply a relationship, you must obtain the other company’s permission in writing. Oral agreements are acceptable but difficult to prove.

Deep linking is done when a link bypasses the front page of a website and links to an interior page. So far deep linking is okay (but unsettled), as long as it doesn’t imply a relationship. If your website contains outbound links, consider adding the following disclaimer to your website:
By providing links to other sites, [your website name] does not guarantee, approve or endorse the information or products available at these sites.
Framing another website’s content has been found by one court to be an infringement of copyright. A website called TotalNews framed content from CNN and the Washington Post. They were ordered to stop framing and use text links only.
If you own a website that allows the public to post comments, you will want to protect yourself with a “click to accept” agreement.
“User agrees not to post any materials protected under copyright, trademark or trade secrets unless with the express authorization of the owner or, any material likely to defame or invade the privacy of an individual.”
“Click to accept” agreements (click wrap agreements) often accompany royalty-free and copyright free materials i.e. shareware and clip art. These agreements commonly allow personal use and prohibit resale to others. “Click to accept” agreements are generally acceptable in the United States.
Commercial sites will want to have a refund and return policy, and any website that provides downloads will want to state that they are not responsible for any viruses picked up during the download.