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Business Ethics on the Internet: Understanding Copyright Laws

written by: •edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 3/20/2011

Downloading a song from the Internet is easy. Before downloading, pause and reflect whether it is any different than stealing from a physical store? This article discusses some Internet ethics and copyright laws that may land you in difficulty if you break them.

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    Due Diligence

    Copyright Infringement This discussion of Internet ethics and copyright laws covers both written and unwritten rules and regulations. Unwritten Internet ethics and disregard for copyright laws may not bother you but breaking them does harm the people who created and own certain material. Copyright laws protect any work created for use on the Internet or anywhere - any type of intellectual property – monograms, written material, drawing, paintings, research papers, etc. Most Internet copyright infringements are related to music and website designs.

    Imagine the effort that went into creating an album, which is then posted to the Internet so the people who worked on the album can make some money while earning fame. However, some "intelligent person" uploaded the same album to a site from where you can download the album without paying a cent. You may be thrilled, but consider this – are you not denying the effort and motivation that went into creating that album? Will that band ever use the Internet to sell their future albums or even bother to create another album? From my point of view, you just walked into a shop, picked up the album, and walked away without paying for it. This is not ethical. Can you consider the same action on the Internet to be ethical?

    IMPORTANT: Works of literary, musical, dramatic, and certain other intellectual nature carry copyrights as soon as you create them. You need not specifically register the copyright. Federal laws assign copyright to your creation as soon as you create it.

    The following paragraphs on Internet ethics and copyright laws cover the copyright laws, ethics, and associated penalties.

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    Penalties Associated With Copyright Infringement

    This section about Internet ethics and copyright laws explains the penalties you can incur when you infringe copyright. The federal government can penalize you financially. It can also send you for a jail term (two years maximum). In some cases, it can be both – depending upon the severity of copyright infringement.

    Next time you feel like downloading your favorite song without paying any fee from an unauthorized website, pause and think about the Internet ethics and copyright laws as well as possible penalties. You may find that paying a nominal fee is better than paying for a copyright infringement suit.

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    Dealing with Important Internet Ethics and Copyright Laws Issues

    On the Internet you will find some people cheating others in any way possible (including "fake" money making schemes). Here are some cases of copyright infringement using Internet ethics, and methods to avoid them:

    • Copying material from another website to your website

    Create your own material instead of copy-pasting others' material. You can make substantial changes to the original work and get a copyright for the derivative work. You need to use citations wherever you use the original work.

    • Creating an ebook or a webpage by just compiling information from different websites and printed material

    People often forget to cite references to print media while posting it on the Internet. This is also unethical. If you have used material from any Internet or printed source, give it attribution.

    • Using other pieces of any form of correspondence in your website or ebook without obtaining explicit consent from the owner(s)

    While asking the original creators for permission before using emails or any other form of correspondence, make sure you keep a copy showing that the creator/owner agreed to let you use the material. There have been some cases where the owners later accused the user of violation for using the material, especially correspondence.

    • Using monograms, images, etc. from the Internet without attributing the ownership to the real owner

    You can always ask the owner of the material for permission to use the material. Most owners may be happy to let you use such material as it offers free advertising or gives them exposure. If the owner says no, you should not use it. If you are already using it, you should remove it immediately if the owner asks you to remove his/her work from your site.

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    Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Understanding Copyright and Copyright Infringements

This article series on Internet ethics and copyright laws help you understand different copyright laws, avoiding copyright infringements, and how to file a copyright infringement case. It also includes a sample copyright infringement example that helps you in filing a case against violator.
  1. Business Ethics on the Internet: Understanding Copyright Laws
  2. When Can a Derivative Work be Copyrighted?
  3. Well Known Cases of Copyright Infringement