Intellectual Property

Swiper no Swiping

A lot of businesses seem to have trouble coming to terms with the idea that just because someone has posted their work online, it does not mean that it's there for anyone to use, free of charge. Here's a few facts for you to remember if your clients ever start pressuring you to use un-sourced material in the design of their sites. 

The fact is this; Morally and legally, you shouldn't post un-sourced material online. (Even on Facebook. Perhaps especially on Facebook.) As a business, if you post un-sourced material online you're opening yourself up to a whole lot of legal trouble. 

According to the Australian Government, intellectual property is anything that "results from the application of someone's mind or intellect to create something new or original." As this suitably vague definition suggests, intellectual property covers a lot of things, and has a wide range of rights associated with it - from patents and trademarks through to copyrights.

The internet poses a myriad of challenges for intellectual property rights, as it is a medium that encompasses all others. The ease of online sharing can be beneficial in that works are now accessible to a much wider, international audience, but this also has downsides. Anything posted online can be quite easily copied and redistributed without due credit being given to the original creator.

When you post something you've created online you are effectively sharing it with the world. You are showcasing your work and putting it forth for comment, celebration and critique. What you are not doing is putting it online for anyone to steal and claim as their own.

If you ask for their permission, most artists are fine with people sharing their work, because, after all, the whole point of posting it online was to show their talent and get their name out there. If, however, you repost their art without permission and without giving credit by linking back to their homepage or the original source, you are stealing their intellectual property.

Even if it wasn't your intention (perhaps you're just extremely lazy) by re-publishing uncredited material of any medium you are allowing your audience to assume that you created it. This is obviously incorrect, but for some reason people have trouble getting their heads around the fact that just because an article is online and intangible it does not mean that any less effort went into creating it or that any less credit is due. If that picture they found on Google Images was a solid, framed portrait instead of a .jpg, they'd think twice before taking it and telling everyone that you painted it themselves, wouldn't they?

If you are using someone else's intellectual property as a business or corporation it's even worse than if you were to do it as an individual, because you may profit monetarily or in terms of profile from someone else's work. Even if you do so inadvertently, you've taken that profit away from the creator who deserves it and you may find yourself in legal trouble.

Just as it's easy to share creations online, it's easy to get in contact with the inventors and ask for their permission to re-use their work. With their approval, it takes no time at all to link back to the original source and give credit where credit is due.

The next time you find yourself about to repost un-sourced work, take a moment to think about how you'd feel if the situation was reversed; If you put time and effort into something and were so proud of it that you wanted to put it online and get feedback from others, and a stranger took it without even informing you.

Don't let your corporate identity be tainted because you've used un-sourced images or articles. Be responsible and show your clients that you can be trusted to respect the work of others by always crediting work that isn't your own.