Homepage -part of my home ?

A brief introduction to copyright issues

Many people have now homepages and those contain everything from all walks of life (some even of the side walks).Nearly all HTML writing tools and all graphic programs allow for cut 'n' paste and drag 'n' drop making compositions of articles with pictures a snap, but nobody tells you to obey the copyright of others, when you use such programs. The program suppliers , however, stress and sometimes even overextend their copyright in their license agreements, then using the "void where prohibited" clause to keep themselves within legal lines.

You will also find Web Servers offering free homepages. And check: even your Service Provider will display a disclaimer, that he is not responsible for the content of the pages on his computer. This has all to do with copyright. But what has it to do with a home page ?

While commercial enterprises on the Internet are legally bound to copyright with all consequences( international conventions), for personal homepages was a different strategy adopted. It was argued that such personal pages are "private" documents and would therefore not constitute a duplication due to licensing. It was compared to the use of many other things in your home, which are not subject to copyright licensing for that particular reason(personal private use only). That view is changing slowly, but steadily! More and more the creators of homepages are aware of their creative works and you will find the copyright notice on every better designed homepage. That is for only one reason: the home page owner insists that possible visitors respect his creation - so it is only natural to expect the same in return ! The "Wanna be Net regulators" and legislators should consider this self classification.

A publicly displayed or accessible homepage is somehow a publication! And as such protected by but also subject to copyright laws.

Even on the internet copyright protection becomes more important again, as it should. This is where those "free" home pages come in.  New and/or unaware Web users are offered free pages to increase "traffic" to this site. They are specifically encouraged to create awesome content and sometimes even promised remuneration for "hits" on their pages. The counter of course adds all hits to the provider's site and increases his advertisement value (like the printed circulation of a magazine determines its advertising value).

You might say,that is only a fair deal - being payed if you provide content attracting this many customers.

Yes, but you should not overlook the possible pitfalls. On a personal home page you may still be able to use copyright protected material in a way, which would land any professional or commercial user in court .However, with such setup, if a copyright violation is found, the homepage owner is responsible- not the service provider. That way the Homepage owner pays for any legal cost and damages or to fight off claims of copyright lawyers and the service provider goes free. With copyright protection strengthening, this risk is probably much higher than the few cents you are offered for hits, unless you have the time and resources to create every graphic and music and story completely yourself and offer it for free to the public.

Question: What do you do for a living? Creating Net content is highly paid and can be expensive (see rates published on the net ).Why - because it has to be newly created and developed, which is time consuming and innovative and that does not come without a price.

.If you "steal" ideas and pictures and textcuts for your personal homepage , you may end in copyright troubles sooner or later, and then you may "loose even your socks and shirt".

However the "traffic" you created so far was/is always credited to your service provider without any responsibility. Some countries like Germany took already steps to hold service providers liable for providing access to "illegal" sites . This was of course only targeted at pornographic and similar content, but this could quickly change to copyright protected content.

What should you do to protect yourself from "surprises" ?

You should make it a general practise to name the source of everything you clip right where you use it, at least with a footnote reference at the bottom of the document. This list may become fairly long , that is why so many people "cheat" on admitting, that neither picture nor text or music are their own creation. Unfortunately even many ( high and higher) schools do no longer educate young people in expressing and creating their own thoughts, but in copying and repeating slavishly or religiously the outbursts of the selfstyled "authorities", of course always to give due credit.. This fosters rebellion and so many people "forget" that clipping, cutting and pasting is not necessarily creating new content, contrary to what they may have learned.

If you want to be free of worries and not intending anyway to create "commercial value" content, always document your sources in text excerpts and music excerpts and graphic cuts.This also supports the original creator by giving credit. You can use most CLIPS (that is a short part of the original) without license cost or royalties by displaying a proper notice, where the clip was taken from.

This is called the quotation exception. (but you must credit your source properly)

This means something like this sample

Excerpt taken from The Copyright Info    1997   by Wolfgang W. Scherer

However especially with music as a background, clips won't do the trick. Here even the private person has to buy the licensed files to include them in Web pages
  (e.g.
see midi-Loops forever music for licensed MIDI music files).

If you record music yourself, check out our other articles about copyright on music, select the copyright index page for that purpose. You can only use such recordings, if you are the composer of that music (not the arranger or performer), or you must first obtain a license to record the music.

The copyright office of the United States recently stated that computer music files are electronic sheet music and/or recordings with the legal protection and obligations under the Copyright Act. Other countries have taken this stand much earlier, with the USA now coming into this, an international copyright check on Internet music content and general licensing may be established soon, possibly resulting in license fees levied on all Net accounts, administered nationally similar to the music performance rights and others.

Make it a habit to respect the copyright and to give due credit! This will hopefully then in return apply to all of your creations too. By the way , you can not say in court that you were not aware of the copyright. As a computer user you had to agree to several copyright licenses before you even could acces the Internet- so this excuse won't work.

Hint: A "registered" hitcounter on your page can be used to prove "commercial" intent (advertising value) so you may no longer qualify as "private" homepage and it also invites easy calculation of royalties accordingly - bragging could become costly - see the copyright alert for some calculations.

This copyright issue has nothing to do with the
Blue Ribbon - Free Speach on the Net - campaign.

Your own expression of opinion in your creations like writings, pictures, graphics, sound effects, or music - is normally not a violation of somebody elses copyright, and only about this issue we were talking here. You may insult others with your Web content or even break the law, but this is most likely not a copyright problem. Unless you add copyright infringement deliberately.

You are of course publishing this content with your home page to a world wide audience, with all consequences!

Please think about this issues each time you work on your home page.
If you like to copy our pages for your records you are welcome to do so,
or take a bookmark and visit again, or link this page, if you find it useful.

Be creative yourself and always considerate of other peoples' work and efforts.

Respect the copyright - on your home page too.


  1997   by Wolfgang W. Scherer   e-mail


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   W-Music & Arts