Laura McLoughlin

Laura McLoughlin is a Digital PR based in Armagh, Northern Ireland, with a background in web content creation and management. She writes for Mackenzie and Dorman, solicitors with offices in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Laura McLoughlin has written 7 articles for SB Informer.
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How to avoid the pitfalls of copyright when it comes to your business

Laura McLoughlin

November 19, 2019

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If you are the creator of work, whether it is photography, copy for a news outlet, music or videos, you are given the exclusive right to own that work.  If people breach this copyright – or right to own the product – they are opening themselves to legal action. The purpose of copyright is to protect original expression from being taken by another or another person producing work that is blatantly derived from the original.

Potential Problems

For small businesses, copyright problems can sit on both sides of the fence.  

You may be a videographer, or you may be a writer, or other freelancer or small company, and the success of your business relies on people paying for the license to use your work.  If the work is reproduced without your permission, you are ultimately being deprived of earnings.  

Alternatively, you may be a small business looking to market your products online or in the media, and you are looking for ways to make this affordable. So, you source creative items to use without permission thinking you are not hurting anybody.  If you make this choice, you could be risking legal action and you the subsequent financial and reputational damage.

Although wonderfully convenient, the online world means that copyright infringement has become far too easy.  The copy and paste feature is both convenient and far too tempting. The problem is made more complicated by sites that offer copyright-free products – but only under specific terms.  Therefore, you may be able to use an image or some text for personal use; you will be in trouble if found to be using it for commercial use. You could certainly be in problems if you edit the material and then claim it as your own – which with the accessibility of intuitive software, is relatively straightforward.

The consequences

You may think that copyright infringement is relatively harmless. You may have decided to take a considered risk and save money by using the material.  There are several potential consequences:

  • You are depriving someone of earnings that could keep that person in business

  • You could use the content in a way that the person feels is counter to their personal ethics, values and beliefs and therefore misrepresent them

  • You may face legal action and forced to pay compensation and legal costs

  • You could be expected to retract the work, even if significant proportions of the product is original and owned by you

  • Your company's reputation could be severely damaged, as people question your reliability, trustworthiness and your demand for high standards.

The solution

Respecting copyright might be difficult.  You may decide to create your own photographs, video content, copy – and save all the hassle of legal consequences.

However, some material can be used without asking for permission.  It is possible to go to creative commons sites online and use most of the content for whatever purpose.  There are also stock image sites where you can purchase a license for the image. Finally, you can employ another small business to produce the original material and sell you the copyright in the process.  

Your takeaway

For a small business, nothing is more important than reputation.  Your customers will know you as an individual or a small group of people.  Therefore, to make a choice to use the work of another without permission is a striking message that you lack integrity.  Also, as a small business, you should respect the struggle of other businesses that are seeking to establish themselves in a competitive field.  Therefore, taking the work of another company without seeking permission or paying for the license is a betrayal of the community of companies you work within.  Copyright should not be ignored as a pesky problem that might come and bite you. You should respect the ownership of a creative item as much as you would as a physical item in a shop.


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