Social Media Breakfast Madison

“Copyright is protection of an expression of an idea. It’s not the idea itself; it’s the expression of it.”

“Copyright is in the constitution. It’s actually a constitutional right.” And when it comes to the internet, copyright doesn’t go away when you shut off your computer. That’s what Erin Ogden, attorney at OgdenGlazer, LLC told a crowd at Wednesday’s Social Media Breakfast at Madison’s Turner Hall.

The same rules that apply to copyright on the internet, apply to hard copy. Erin said If you download or upload photos and if you copy and paste, it’s the same as taking something without permission. “That is called copyright infringement and that is what you would call illegal,” she said. What about fair use? Erin said don’t assume it’s fair use just because it’s on the internet.

Protecting materials you’ve created comes at a price, but it’s worth it. Erin said you don’t need to register your copyright in order to put the “Circle C” down. However, if you don’t register it, you can’t sue someone if they use your materials without permission. The cost to register your copyright is about $40.

Erin described “layers of ownership” in which owners can decide who can use their material, how they can and cannot use it and how they can distribute the material. She used an example of a website with a layout, photos and text, pointing out that each item may be owned by a different company. If you want to use items, get permission. But keep one thing in mind: “Just because you’ve gotten permission to do one part of a website or permission for one photo, you cannot assume that you have that ownership for anything else,” she said.

So what do you do if you want to use something? Erin gave the following advice:

  • Get permission from the person (or entity) by obtaining a license
  • Get your agreement in writing
  • Know and understand your license terms so that you’re using your license the way it was intended
  • Obtain other licenses, such as Creative Commons, in which the copyright owner will let you use the material in specific ways and ask for attribution.

Erin also discussed the issue of public domain, something she hears a lot of talk about. ”People think that because it’s on the interwebs, it’s public domain. No. No, it’s not.” Materials that are in public domain don’t have copyright protection. That happens when a copyright owner gives up rights or when the copyright expires. And expiration doesn’t happen quickly.

If a copyright is owned by a person, it’s for the entire life of the person plus another 70 years, or as Erin calls it, “life plus Mickey Mouse”. Materials that were created before 1923 are in the public domain. Materials between 1923 and the 1980s may or may not be in public domain due to issues with copyright laws during that time. Materials after 1980 are copyrighted.

So how does copyright ownership work on social media platforms? Does Facebook own the photos you post? Erin said every social media platform has Terms of Service. They vary about what copyrights are. She said by agreeing to their terms, you give them a license to use what you post and if you don’t want to give that license, don’t use them. “By posting on your feed that you revoke that permission, it doesn’t matter. Stop doing it…laugh at people that do.”

Erin offered the crowd some takeaways for copyrighted material, both from the perspective of the owner and user:

  • If you didn’t make it, get permission
  • If others didn’t get permission, file DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown
  • Don’t let your mom have a social media account

Erin provided links to various policies of social media platforms, as well as resources on the use of copyright.

Hywania Thompson
Written by Hywania Thompson, Writer and Editor, @hywania



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