In the last few weeks intellectual property law has gotten lots of press coverage. Friday’s Chicago Tribune had a good article on the often misunderstood boundaries of copyright law generally and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act specifically. It even touches on the broadly misunderstood Fair Use doctrine.
My experience, backed up by a fair amount of anecdotal evidence, suggests that businesses (and law firms) have a decent grasp on copyright law in the hard copy world — i.e. you cannot photocopy news clippings or magazines and pass them out around the office. But my anecdotal evidence also suggests that many businesses, law firms and people generally fail to appreciate copyright infringement issues as they relate to the internet and other electronic publications. People and, therefore, businesses generally think they are free to forward anything they find on the internet and even to forward electronic publications, such as email newsletters.
Of course, when the issue is identified most people appreciate that copying an electronic publication or web page by printing multiple copies or forwarding it is equivalent to photocopying a magazine, but when they print, forward, etc. the electronic publication they just do not think of it. It is an interesting (and dangerous because of statutory damages) area of the law, which I suspect we will see much more activity in as the business world learns its ins and outs in the digital realm.
Although I generally avoid directly offering my services on this website, I have previously given highly interactive presentations on the dangers of electronic copyright infringement and best practices for respecting third party’s copyrights. I would be happy to develop and give a version of my presentation for your business, group or organization. In as short as half an hour, or as long as an hour, I can bring your business, group or organization up to speed on respecting copyrights in a digital world and help you avoid many simple, accidental infringements.
One other note, while all of the material on the Blog is copyrighted, I invite you to forward the entries freely, as long as the Blog is credited as the source.