Internet copyright law is a large part of web content writing. How do I know?

Well, I took a test this week so that I could add a certification to my credentials as a professional web copy writer. I’ll be honest, it didn’t go too well. It was a shock, because the last test I flunked was a differential equations exam in college a long time ago. Ego-rattling, since I’m used to doing extremely well on tests.

That test I took was over 50% internet copyright questions. When I reviewed my results, I found that my responses to SEO and English grammar and use questions were correct. I bombed out of a web copy writing test solely because of my lack of knowledge on web copyright law.

I’m pretty much obsessive-compulsive about my writing and getting things right the first time. Ever since I was in school, I’ve known better than not to check spelling, grammar, and word usage, not to rip-off other people’s writing verbatim, and to always cite references. I had heard of people getting expelled for plagiarism, and I certainly did not want to be kicked out for something that is easily avoidable. Mainly I was not eager to experience my Dad’s anger if I banished from the realm of higher learning.

I don’t want to appear to be a dummkopf, at least when it comes to my chosen web copy writing profession. So I turned on my computer and started researching. It’s a good thing I am an avid researcher, since there is a lot of information to digest.

Web copyright laws are far more extensive than the cardinal rule “don’t plagiarize”. It covers things that you would not even dream about for web copy writing in this digital age. So here’s the basic 4-1-1 on internet copyright as I understand it.

  1. Contrary to popular belief, the internet IS NOT public domain. You are not free to use anything out there in cyberspace, so don’t even think about it. This includes links, text, graphics, embedded stuff, code in websites, eBooks, and emails.
  2. Just about anything on the web is protected under international and/or domestic internet copyright law, whether it is expressly stated or not. Just because you don’t see © year-year by Website Name doesn’t mean that what you’re just about to use is not copyrighted.
  3. If you use something not your own on your website, you’re most likely violating copyright. It doesn’t matter if a visitor to your site pays you for it or not.
  4. The “fair use” doctrine allows you use copyrighted material only in specific situations such as commenting, criticism, parody, news reporting, and the like.
  5. Get permission to cite or quote most anything you are planning to use on your own website.

Internet copyright law is time consuming to read and can be difficult to understand. This is especially true if you’re trying to determine if the fair use doctrine can be applied to what you are about to use. If you have doubts about whether you can use paraphrased content from another website, it’s wise to contact the website’s owner and obtain permission.

Before you put something on your website, be sure that you’re not infringing on copyrighted work. Directory One has experienced content writers that can help you review your content for internet copyright infringements. Contact them today at (713) 465-0051.