07 Jun 2016

Beg, Don't "Borrow", or Steal: Who owns the Content on the Web?

by Verlie Oosthuizen, Partner, Durban,
Practice Area(s): Employment | Social Media / Cyber Crimes |

One of the marvellous aspects of the Internet is the staggering amount of content that is readily available to users on every topic under the sun.  But who owns the content that is placed on the internet and can it be used freely by the millions of users that may come across it?  Copyright, trademarks and patents are one of the more complicated areas of commercial law and certainly one of the more difficult to understand.  However, they try to protect the artistic rights of the creators of content and prevent people from being able to use that content without acknowledging the source or paying for its use.  The creator or author of the work retains the right to use that work exclusively and others cannot piggy back off their hard labour.  Copyright automatically comes into being on the physical creation of original work.  Copyright is held by the author or artist responsible for its creation.  If another person wishes to use the work they should pay the copyright holder a royalty for its use.  Using images from the internet without acknowledgment amounts to a breach of copyright and is unlawful. You should rather ask the creator of the content if you can use it and pay them for that use.  If you have used content from the internet where you have not asked permission from the creator or acknowledged the source and you are sent a scary lawyer’s letter by the copyright owner, rather say sorry and remove the content from wherever you have used it.  Unless of course that person did not hold the copyright themselves in the first place… then you may stand your ground. But perhaps get some legal advice first!