Copyright Guidelines for the Web

What you can and cannot do on the Internet and the Web

Creative Commons License
Copyright Guildelines for the Web by Walt Howe is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
(last updated 2 March 2016)

The words you are reading were not written by a lawyer or specialist in copyright law. While I believe them to be essentially true, do not rely on them for legal advice.

Copyright is the legal protection against copying given to original works, which may be in printed or photographically or electronically stored words, music, visual arts, and performing arts. The purpose of copyright is not just to protect the rights, but to establish the rules under which copies or portions may be made to make a work more widely available. Copyright extends to electronic representations of these forms, too, although the laws governing new electronic copies in such forms as search engine indexes and browser caches needs better definition. The law was strengthened to include electronic reproduction issues in Fall 1998. In a ruling by the 9th Circuit Court in 2002, display of thumbnails by search engines were ruled as non-infringing copies of larger graphics.

Copyright exists on all original works from the moment they are published, whether formally registered or not and whether or not copyright markings appear on the works. The absence of a copyright marking does not mean it is in the public domain. Copyrights probably apply to public postings in e-mail, message bases, and newsgroups, but the law is not well tested in these areas. Copyrights are observed by most countries in the world.

Copyright is not the only form of intellectual property protection. For example, while titles are not protected by copyright, they may be protected by trademarks. Ideas may not be protected by copyright, but they may be protected by patents.

Citing Sources of Copyrighted Material. Whenever you use information you have gained from other sources, particularly in academic or research settings or for formal publication, it is important to cite those sources to distinguish your own work from those of others, even if you are not directly copying anything. There are various accepted styles of citation. Pick the style your institution or publisher supports. Consistency in citations is most important. For more help with citations, visit The Chicago Manual of Style Quick Guide.

Protecting Yourself. As a webmaster or Forum host or author, there are some things you should do to protect yourself.

Further Information on Copyrights. Here are six links which give more information on copyright: