Copyright Laws for Internet Materials

How Can We Help?

Q: We do a lot of research for our clients to enhance their articles or brochures, or other marketing communications. Most of the information is drawn from direct interviews with expert sources or from browsing the Internet. When must you get the permission from the source of any information? For example, do you need to call and ask Forrester Research for permission to use their statistics even if you cite them as the source? And what about general information you find on the Internet that defines an industrial process or explains a new technology? If you find a company listed on the Internet, can you use the company’s name in your materials without getting their permission because the Internet is public domain?

Dazed and confused,

Lisa Bardora

A: Dear Lisa:

I’m afraid I really don’t know as much about copyright laws as I should. You might want to take a look at the chapter on communication law in the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) book “Inside Organizational Communication,” written by Frank Walsh, JD, APR, and Carolyn Wright, JD. Some of the key points it makes on some of your question areas are that:

  1. “…many people mistakenly think that anything published on the Internet is in the public domain and may be used without permission…”
  2. “…the public nature of the Internet is such that there is an implied right to use information to a limited extent, for example, to read, download, print out and probably forward to a limited audience.”
  3. “Posting on the Internet does not…imply consent for a commercial use….

I think the best advice I can give you is to have your clients get a legal opinion on the specific information you want to use for a specific purpose to avoid a lawsuit.

Angela D. Sinickas

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