Adhering to federal copyright laws has always been a major responsibility of operating any enterprise. But county officials and their employees must be aware of the need to credit the original author when using easily downloadable content created — and owned — by someone else.
Creative content like images and videos can help enhance the services you provide to your constituents, but without the correct attribution, using those images could cost you. Before using an elections meme on social media or an image of the state’s beautiful landscape on a marketing brochure, here’s how your county can avoid violating copyright laws:
What to know: Content you find on the internet is often copyrighted. Direct violation of copyright laws occurs when you use a copyrighted item without permission. It is also important to note that secondary liability may be asserted when the entity or person encourages infringing acts by others.
Prevention tip: You must request permission for use of all copyrighted images. Even if permission is granted, be aware that use of the image may not be free. A best practice is consulting with your county’s attorney or intellectual property consultant before using any images.
What to know: Removing the infringing materials from your website after receiving a demand does not solve the infringement problem. In addition to a removal notice, a copyright holder will frequently seek past-use license fees or file suit alleging more significant damages and attorneys’ fees.
Prevention tip: Always forward demand notices to your county’s legal team so that they can respond in a timely way to the allegations and demands.