Five Ways to Avoid Copyright Infringement and Libel on the Internet

Copyright is a pesky thing. Want to post a video of yourself lip-singing your favorite song? Too bad, it’s copyrighted. Do you think that picture is pretty enough to act as your new profile picture? Well it’s also pretty enough to be copyrighted! Do you just absolutely hate a certain celebrity? If you’re popular enough on the internet, posting your hatred might earn you a million dollar lawsuit for libel.

You got lucky this time, YouTube user darthbilbo.
You got lucky this time, YouTube user darthbilbo.

Fortunately, there are several ways you can avoid copyright infringement and libel.

  1. There’s always the option to pay for the material you want to use. Most of the time, there’s an option to pay a monetary fee for use of the material in a commercial setting. If there isn’t an option, then it can be assumed that the owner doesn’t want the material to be used in an outside source and that should be respected. If you continue to use the material without paying or consulting the owner, you would be legally stealing that material and could be subjected to a lawsuit which often costs a lot more money than the copyright fee.
  1. There are specific situations you can legally use copyrighted materials without paying a fee. If you’re planning on using the material for parody, educational, review, or non-profitable purposes, then you’re fine. Copyright is intended to protect an owner’s property so that only the owner can profit off of their work. It’s sort of like money in a safe: you can make fun of the money, teach others about the money, critique the money, or show off the money but you cannot take the money and use it as your own.
  1. If you’re broke but you still need material for your non-parody, non-education, non-review, profitable purposes, then it’s no problem! Just use something from the magical public domain! Anything in public domain no longer has a copyright so it’s no problem at all to use whatever you want from public domain! It truly is a magical place for the broke person on the internet.
  1. To avoid libel, don’t fabricate facts or stories. It seems like an obvious response, but many libel lawsuits occur because a reporter/blogger will exaggerate details in their story which makes elements of the story fabricated which can result in libel if the fabricated material is malicious.
  1. Another way to avoid evidence is to always have solid evidence behind every claim. Sometimes a libel lawsuit happens simply because a reporter/blogger made a claim without providing evidence that the claim could be legitimate. For example, you cannot claim that your least favorite celebrity is a talentless hack unless you provide reason beyond “because I said so” or else it can be libel.

The internet can be a scary place. But with the proper knowledge of copyright infringement and libel, anyone can create material for internet to enjoy. Who knows? Maybe you’ll even enjoy the laws of copyright when your own original content gets popular.

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