Copyright – your Website and the use of Google Images

Copyright notice in the footer of your website

There’s ongoing debate about what the year in the copyright section of a website’s footer is telling you. In my case, some of my clients ask that the copyright year is updated at the beginning of each year to show that their website is up-to-date, and others want to show the year the site was first created. When used with the latter case in mind, it’s worth noting that website copyright notices in the footer are not required or used by law, and are only displayed as a mild deterrent. Technically, they’re supposed to be from the first date your copyright was active.

But… the general consensus is that most visitors use the year as a freshness indicator. As this comment made in a forum says:

Ever looked at a website and wondered if it is still in operation? Maybe a thing or two looked like they could have been updated – and then you notice the copyright notice the in the footer. “2012. Right, this site must be dead. Let’s move along.”

What’s required?

The humble copyright notice is always useful to show in the footer, as a way of stating your claim over a site. Interestingly, however, it is not required for you to have copyright over the graphics, content and artwork of your site. Websites are considered ‘original work’, and they’re copyrighted from the moment they go live. While a copyright isn’t necessary for every site, placing a copyright notice is still advisable to deter potential plagiarists and stake your claim. The generally accepted format is: Copyright © 2017 i4design

Copyright law in New Zealand

Copyright comes into existence automatically under the Copyright Act 1994, when a work is put into material form e.g. manuscript, audio/video recording. No registration is necessary (or even possible), nor is any other formality required for securing copyright protection. (http://www.copyright.org.nz/basics.php)

Plagiarism and what you can do about it

With the vast free market that is the internet, it’s increasingly common for people to feel they should get everything for nothing. Plagiarism is when someone steals your ideas, writing, music or other intellectual property and pretends that it’s theirs. People are allowed to quote a limited amount of your work, but are supposed to give full credit to you. Where you are losing out substantially, you can take the offender to court. You may also recover damages, if your case is proved, plus any additional profits the other party has made from your work. Often, just knowing the law and warning the infringer will be sufficient to stop or end a breach.

Using Google images on your website

We’ve all been tempted. You’ve got a deadline to meet, the budget is tight and you need some images to “spice up” your new website or blog post – fast. And there it is, that smorgasbord of seemingly “free” imagery – Google Images.

Although some images found in search engines may be in the public domain, you should actually assume the opposite – that all online content is protected by copyright law. Even content from other countries may be protected by copyright law in your own country. And if the located image does not have a copyright notice, the familiar © symbol, it may still be protected by copyright. A copyright infringement cease and desist letter will often insist on the immediate removal of any offending images from your website.

Search tools such as Google Images locate content such as images and photos. Google is not a content depository nor is it a collection of public domain or copyright-free works. Google directs us to images and photos according to our search criteria. Once you find that perfect image or photo, you must take certain steps before you may legally use it. You can filter Google usable images by going to ‘Search Tools’ – ‘Usage rights’.

google-image-rights

If, while searching on Google, you see a photo that you’d really like to use on your website then try tracking down the contact details of the copyright holder and see if they would be willing to give you written permission to use their imagery – you’ll never know if you don’t try.

A word of caution. This is only general information about copyright. Although I strive to provide accurate and comprehensive information, I do not provide legal advice. If you require detailed information or need to know how the law applies in a particular situation, please seek advice from a lawyer.


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