One of the questions that comes up a lot in the hands on classes that I teach has to do with Copyright. People either want to know how to protect their work, or they want to know how they can use work done by others. So, I thought that I’d share some of the resources that I use to answer those questions.
Bur first, a disclaimer. I am not an attorney. And, if I was, which I am not, I am not your attorney. This is not legal advice. You use this information at your own risk and after having thoroughly investigated every link I present here. To be on the REALLY safe side, consult an attorney. Preferably one who is conversant with Copyright Law.
Now that I have that little bit of nastiness is out of the way, let me tell you how I deal with these questions.
To start with, it would be a very good idea if you took a few minutes to check out all of the free information there is on the web. Instead of ending up a some random web site that offers questionable advice, why not go straight to the source? If you are in the US, the US Copyright Office is conveniently located at http://www.copyright.gov/. If you are a fan of multimedia learning, go straight to Taking the Mystery Out of Copyright located at http://www.loc.gov/teachers/copyrightmystery/ which is a animation designed for teachers and students. I found it to be a good resource for a quick understanding. You can also get a plain text version of the animation at http://www.loc.gov/teachers/copyrightmystery/text/. Another good page to check out is the FAQ page at http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/
There is much more to read on the site, but as a minimum, reading the suggested pages will get you off to a good understanding.
While Copyright law covers much of what you want to do on line, there is yet another type of non-governmental protection available through something called Creative Commons. You can learn about that at http://creativecommons.org/.
Essentially, Creative Commons has created standardized licensing procedures that allow you to modify your Copyright rights. Here is the link to a page on that site which explains what it is, why it came into being and how you might benefit from Creative Commons licensing: http://creativecommons.org/about/what-is-cc. Be sure to take the time to watch the videos there and you will not only get informed, but you’ll be entertained along the way.
Finally, you could always just ask someone for permission to use their material. Novel concept, but it works. I often will purchase photos from www.istockphoto.com to use on this blog, but occasionally I have found the perfect photo on www.flickr.com. In order to use the flickr photos, I just emailed the photographer and asked for permission. When I got the ok back, I just went ahead and used the picture.
If you are publishing a blog, or laying music down with a home tour that you built (I am not talking about the third party tours that come with music), you’ll definitely want to check out the US Copyright Office and the Creative Commons websites and save yourself a load of trouble.