I think I have a secret wish to work at Google someday.
How honestly did we survive before it came along? Only very few times have I been unable to find the information I require from Google. So it made perfect sense that once I started blogging, I'll head directly to Google to get the images that supported my blog post.
Bloggers are not the only ones guilty of this. Professionals and business people often use Google images (and other people's works and/or creations available on the internet) in their materials, presentations, slides and even on their Instagram page. And no, merely stating or linking the source of the picture doesn't automatically grant you permission or any form of protection. In the same vein, putting out a disclaimer that says 'All the images on this blog are from Google and do not belong to me' is pretty useless as well.
A lot of know know this. But you know, we often just shrug our shoulders and think 'Who's going to sue me?'.
Artists, photographers and creatives take their work seriously and are often willing to take legal action. More so, in this digital age (and if we want our blogs and websites to be truly international) we need to do this properly. Needless to say I've gone back to my old posts, and I'm ripping off those images which I don't have the permission for.
This is just a quick FYI post, so you don’t say your Lawyer friend did not warn you.
Here's what you should know.
Copyright protects creative works - books, films, music, artistic works etc. Such ideas must have been expressed, so unfortunately copyright does not protect your idea while it's still in your brain. So if I had an idea to create a painting of Olumo Rock*, and told all my blog readers that I had such idea but never actually painted it, and one of my readers goes ahead to create such painting, obviously I have no copyright in that material. Such work also has to be an original piece of work.
Copyright also arises automatically in many jurisdictions. So once I've expressed my idea, I automatically have a copyright in it. Another key thing about copyright is that the right to the work, often lasts for the entire life of the author plus 70 years. Only after this period are you allowed to use it without permission.
Who owns the copyright? - Usually the author of the creation. However, if the work is created in the course of employment, the copyright is usually owned by the employer. So if your job involves creating master pieces, you may want to check your employment contract to confirm who owns the copyright.
Remember my blog post on the movie Joy and her Mop? She had to register a patent for this new kind of mop she had created. Patents protect novel inventions and unlike copyright which arise automatically, these have to be registered in the relevant jurisdictions.
Patents must entail an inventive step (i.e something not quite obvious to everyone else). The idea is often to promote such useful inventions, while at the same time allowing the inventor to commercially exploit his invention. For this reason, a patent lasts only 20 years, during which time only the inventor is allowed to use the invention. After this period, such knowledge becomes public information which anyone can access and use.
We all know trademarks. These basically distinguish goods or services of one company or business from that of another. They can include letters, numerals, words and slogans, designs (graphics), shape of goods/packaging, colours, sounds, etc. Producing a knock-off Chanel handbag breaches trademark. In the movie Coming to America, the fast food restaurant McDowells was infringing the trademark of McDonalds - the two golden arches.
So that's all - my social responsibility for the month of March is done. In February, I talked about the dismayed state of Africa's power situation. There's some pretty useful info on there and you can check it out here.
And on these posts - can we strike a deal? I write; you share? That way someone somewhere learns something new thanks to you! If it's easier, you can follow me on Twitter @Kacheetee, and re-tweet.
What intellectual property rights are you most guilty of infringing? It's best to stop now and let's all strive to do the right thing.
Have a wonderful month of April.
pS: If you have any law related posts you'll like, you can use this contact form to get in touch.
*Olumo Rock is a major tourist attraction in Abeokuta, Nigeria, used as a fortress during wars in the 19th century. I can't believe this is Tee's hometown and I've never been to the rock. May plan a trip later this year. Anyone interested?