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How to Avoid Copyright Violations

written by: Joli Ballew•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 5/11/2010

There are several ways to avoid infringing on someone else’s copyrights. Before assuming that another person's work is free for you to choose, use these steps to make sure you're not committing any copyright violations.

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    Avoid Copyright Violations

    There are 7 steps you can take to avoid copyright violations:

    1. Look for the Copyright Symbol

    If you see a copyright symbol on a work, don’t copy the work, use the work on your Web site, reproduce the work, or imply any part of the work is your own. The work is most likely registered with the U.S. Copyright Office and is protected.

    2. Understand Fair Use

    You can legally use copyrighted material if you follow fair use guidelines. Fair use allows you to reproduce part of the work for the purpose of parody, comment, or criticism. For instance, you could use a quote from a movie to create a parody skit on a television show. The U.S. Copyright Office has the information you need regarding fair use and copyright law.

    3. Use Legal Download Options

    When downloading content from the Internet, use the legal download option. You can often download a trial version or free version of a product. Avoid downloading software or other data from file-sharing web sites like BitTorrent or KaZaA.

    4. Avoid Distributing Others’ Works

    It’s generally unwise to print copies of someone else’s work and distribute it (perhaps to students or colleagues), make digital copies of the work and share it (perhaps by copying a software CD and sharing it with friends), or share someone else’s copyrighted works (like music) though file sharing programs.copyright 

    5. Ask for Permission

    Most of the time, works have disclaimers regarding copyrights, including who to ask for permission to use the work or part of it. When in doubt, read this information and ask the owner of the copyright for permission.

    6. Cease and Desist

    Most of the time a copyright owner, after discovering a copyright infringement, will send a Cease and Desist request to you via mail or the Internet. If you get a letter like this, remove or stop using the work immediately, apologize, and hope you are forgiven. There can be stiff penalties for copyright infringement.

    7. Know the Laws

    If you reuse material often, put on productions of others’ works, or show movies created by film companies, it’s important to know the law regarding copyrights and distribution. Although the laws don’t change often, make sure you know your rights and learn about the law. Specifically, learn how the law affects you and your business or product.

How to Prevent and Avoid Copyright Violations

Learn how to protect your own work from copyright violations as well as how to avoid infringing on others’ copyrights.
  1. Preventing Others From Violating Your Copyrights
  2. How to Avoid Copyright Violations