Digital or electronic content, such as e-books, photographs on
Web sites and electronic databases are subject to the same protections
under the Copyright Act as non-digital, traditional or analog
works. In addition, there are specific provisions relating to
digital content in the 1998 amendment to the Copyright Act by
the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
Many people assume that online content, or content found on Web
sites, is not subject to copyright law and may be freely used
and modified without permission. This is not true. Others think
that online content is not protected unless it carries a copyright
notice. This is not true either.
Copyright law protects almost all content on the Web or in any
other digital or electronic form. Therefore, permission is most
likely required to use that work beyond fair use.
What is Protected?
Any copyright-protected content in a non-digital form
will be protected in a digital form. Examples of copyright-protected
- Print and electronic books
- Analog and digital musical recordings
- Print and e-mail letters
- Web sites
- Embedded works in Web sites
Both electronic and non-electronic databases (such as professional
directories and collections of images) may be copyright-protected
if they reflect some level of creativity by the author in the
selection or organization of the data. With the proliferation
of new databases in electronic form, Congress is discussing new
legislation to protect even those databases that do not meet the
requirements in the Copyright Act.
The electronic environment features methods of reusing
copyright-protected materials. These methods include:
Scanning or digitizing a work (such as an article, book
excerpt or photograph) produces a reproduction of that work. Prior
to scanning a work, you must obtain permission from the copyright
holder or its agent.
Using Content from a Web Site
Before using any content on a Web site, you should determine
its copyright status and, if necessary, obtain permission from
the copyright holder or its agent.
Posting Content to a Web Site
Posting copyright-protected content on a Web site requires
permission from the copyright holder or its agent.
The copyright in an e-mail belongs to the author of the
e-mail. The copyright in an e-mail attachment belongs to the author
of the attachment. You must obtain permission from the applicable
copyright holder(s) or their agent(s) prior to forwarding an e-mail
or e-mail attachment.
Linking to a Web Site
A link on a Web site lets you click and connect to another
area of the same site or to a different site. A link from your
site to another Web site (especially to a page other than the
homepage) may need the consent of that Web site's owner. U.S.
law is not clear on this issue. In an effort to be safe, many
organizations only link their own sites to the public home pages
(rather than the internal pages) of other Web sites. To ensure
compliance, obtain permission even to link to another Web site's
Electronic Discussion Lists, Bulletin Boards and Newsgroups
Copyright law protects all types of electronic discussions,
including messages that appear in your e-mail inbox or ones that
you access from a Web site or computer network. You should not
reproduce or forward any comments from any electronic discussion
list, bulletin board or newsgroup without the permission of the
copyright holder or its agent.