WHAT IS COPYRIGHT PROTECTED?
There has been some blogging about copyright this week, so, although I AM NO COPYRIGHT EXPERT, I have some experience in the matter.
If folks have any confusion about copyright, don't be concerned about what you don't know. Just think about what you DO know. A person may not know if a writing or image is copyright protected. But, everyone KNOWS what they did write or create. If you DID write or create it, use it. If you didn't, don't. That is so amazing simple.
I believe that folks get copyright infringement education in the 8th grade Civics class. I remember quite well when I learned about government structure, copyright was covered. I've always believed that folks who had the good sense to get a real estate license, practice self employment in the real estate industry, invest their money in marketing their services, devoting the time and energy in continuing education, etc., etc. etc., are smart enough to know that copying an image or article that they didn't create or write is an act of copyright infringement. They KNOW that they didn't create the image or have the image prepared for them with full transfer of copyright protection. They KNOW that they didn't write that article that has a byline of another or is included on another person's web site. Folk KNOW.
If a person intentionally copies the writing of another or copies an image from someone else's web page, they know that they did not write or create that article or image and thay take it anyway, they need to suffer the consequences. If they don't get caught, they have to have a feeling of angst that they might get caught. To date, I have collected approx. $104,000 in damages from copyright violators.
THOUGHT IT WAS PUBLIC DOMAIN?
DANGER WILL ROBINSON!!! Just because you see it on Google, doesn't make it public domain. That's a phrase I've heard often and absolutely not true. Google has warnings on their "images" pages and often there are public domain and copyrighted material mixed. But, to be on the safe side, it would seem that it's a lot safer to NOT copy an image or article to use on your web page.
WHAT CAN YOU USE ON YOUR WEB PAGE?
There are web sites that offer extensive collections of images that are FREE and available to all. Many Active Rain folks use them liberally to the advantage of their blog. I use my own images because I have a collection of over 10,000 images and photos that I can draw on for blogs and web sites. If I need a new image that I don't have in my collection, I hit the road with my camera and get what I need or I create a new image for a web page. These images and photos are then MINE. Google, SearchMash, etc. have lots of my images indexed. However, they are NOT public domain.
ASK FOR PERMISSION TO USE
Want to use some of my images?? Just let me know and I'll send a permission to use and all I want is a link to my web site. That's my fee, an incoming link to Homefinders.com.
HOW I ENFORCE MY COPYRIGHTS
What is the procedure if I discover that someone has put one of my map images on their web page. If it's an image that I have a copyright certificate from the Library of Congress, that means statutory damages, I'll file a Complaint for Damages within a week. Whether the image(s) is removed from the web site or not is not material. The claim for damages is for using my property to compete with me for the time it was on the violator's web site. Taking the image down and thinking I'll go away doesn't work.
I have maps of many counties and cities in my market area. Viewers love them and I believe that I have a map fetish. No matter, I include these little maps in my relocating packages and folks are always complimentary. Many of these maps have been registered with the Library of Congress. It takes about 10 months to get through the process, but the statutory protection begins the day they receive it.
YOU DON'T HAVE TO REGISTER IMAGES FOR COPYRIGHT PROTECTION
Copyright protection conveys the instant an article is written, an images is created. This is automatic and you don't have to do anything to have the protection. You need to have registered your images or writing to enjoy the STATUTORY protection for damages.
The key to copyright enforcement is timing. I enforce my copyrighted images vigorously and swiftly. However, quite often, if I see a web page that has copied a few phrases of content, I just send a nice note to the violator and let them know that it is my material and suggest that they take it down A few phrases are not worth the time or cost of the lawyer's letter and certainly not worth the cost of litigation. The exception, of course would be if the article or web pages have been registered with the Library of Congress. Then statutory damages may be claimed. But, the damages start at about $750 and my attorney doesn't go to lunch for $750. I don't register a lot of my content because of the time involved and the fact that I rewrite it often. That is a balance between enforcing a copyright and feeding Google. I believe I benefit more by feeding Google with fresh content.
I DO NOT NOTICE COPYRIGHT VIOLATORS, MY ATTORNEY DOES IT FOR ME
If I see an image, the process is quite different. I copy the web page of the violator, print the web page of the page and send it to my attorney. The lawyer's letter goes out swiftly and if they do not enter into serious damages conversation within a week, a complaint is filed in circuit court and it will cost them more than my legal fees to stop that process.
THE RUSSIANS DID IT
We've had some violators who tried to blame the presence of my images on their web sites on their web master. No good, a person is responsible for the content on their web site. I have also pursued brokers in Maryland because brokers, under the law, have a duty to review and approve agent advertising. One agent violator tried to blame the existance of my maps on his web site on the Russian technicians that he claimed he hired to script his web site. I never believed it for one minute, but it doesn't matter. It was his web site. One agent tried to convince me that the web site company from which he purchased a template web site, told him that images on Google were O.K. to use. I didn't believe that either.
Be careful and don't be tempted. Write some content. It's fun. Create some images. You'll love them. Careful, though, some graphic artists want to keep the copyright of images that they do for hire. Protect yourself and don't use a graphic artist or web design person who claims any property rights to the image that you hired them to create FOR YOU FOR MONEY.
I have created a library of "crab" images because of the popularity of the Blue Crap in Maryland lore, commerce and image. I have a crap inspector, a crab judge, a crab lady agent, etc. Just for fun.
These images represent new homes, luxury homes or home styles. They add color and style to web pages. Do they produce business for me? Don't know, don't care.