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Do I need permission to share other people’s copyright work online?

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Creators online often make use of a lot of other people's work..

But it is important to know where the boundaries are to avoid copyright infringement.

Do I need permission to share other people's copyright work online?

Photo by iam_os on Unsplash

Words by Todd Bateman

Do I need permission to share other people's copyright work online?


There is a general rule that you cannot share other people's copyright work online without their permission. This includes sharing it on social media, on your own website or blog, or in any other way.

There are some exceptions to this rule, but they are generally quite limited. For example, you may be able to share a limited amount of someone else's work if you are reviewing it or critiquing it. But if you are simply sharing it for the sake of sharing it, you will almost certainly need the copyright owner's permission.

If you are unsure whether you need permission to share someone else's copyright work online, it is always best to err on the side of caution and ask the copyright owner for permission.

Most copyright owners are happy to grant permission for non-commercial uses of their work, as long as they are properly credited. But it is still important to get permission in writing so that you have a record of it in case there are any problems later on.

In general, then, you should always get permission before sharing other people's copyright work online. It is the safest course of action, and it will avoid any potential legal problems down the road.


What rights do copyright owners have over their works?


As the owner of a copyright work, you have certain economic and authorial rights over it. These rights allow you to control how your work is used and distributed, and to receive compensation for its use.

Your economic rights as the copyright owner include the right to reproduce your work, to prepare derivative works based on it, to distribute copies of it, and to publicly perform or display it. You also have the right to license others to do these things on your behalf. These rights allow you to control how your work is used and to receive compensation for its use.

Your authorial rights as the copyright owner include the right to claim authorship of your work, to control the way it is used (such as for marketing or promotional purposes), and to prevent others from making unauthorized changes to it. These rights allow you to maintain the integrity of your work and to control how it is used.


The impact of the internet on copyright and creators


The Internet's quick growth has made it a significant avenue for consumers to access literary works, music, movies, and games. After years of debate, WIPO member states adopted the two Internet treaties (WCT and WPPT) in 1996. These treaties modernise the Berne and Rome Conventions' copyright and related rights rules for the digital age.

Since then, national laws all around the world have been updated to include copyright and related rights for works disseminated via the Internet, based on the WCT and WPPT models. Because works may be distributed and accessed quickly by a large number of users on the Internet, illicit dissemination and use of works on the Internet is common, despite national laws requiring the right holders' consent. In fact, copyright protection for the Internet has become a common problem for the international community.

At the policy, legislative, law enforcement, and technical levels, many countries are addressing the issue. Unique instances that do not clash with regular exploitation of the work and do not unnecessarily jeopardise the author's or right holder's legitimate interests This test is also known as the "three-step test.”

Use of content otherwise subject to copyright or associated rights does not require permission from the right holder or payment of a fee if the conditions are met.

Limitations and exceptions are divided into two categories: general limitations and exceptions, such as fair use and fair dealing, which apply to various fact patterns as they arise, and specific limitations and exceptions, such as news reporting and educational uses, which apply to specific categories of users, uses, or both.

(For example, educational institutions), non-commercial personal uses, or uses that libraries are permitted to do in order to preserve resources or serve their users. The majority of copyright systems feature limitations and exceptions. Fair use or fair dealing provisions are becoming more common. These broad exceptions have long been associated with common law systems, although they have recently been embraced by certain countries with civil law systems.

The application of the three-step test varies among countries that have joined the WIPO copyright and related rights treaties since it is abstract and was designed to allow for the modification of copyright and related rights systems to national circumstances.

In general, unless there is a limitation or exemption, replication for personal study, research, or appreciation is likely to be permitted. Copying a full book or downloading pirated films from the Internet, on the other hand, is considered copyright infringement in most nations.



Examples of when online creators might share other people's copyright works


There are many examples of when other people's copyright works are shared by someone online.

A common one is when someone posts a photo they took to a social media site, and someone else shares it without giving credit to the original photographer. This happens often with celebrities, as people will share photos of them without giving credit to the original source.

Another example is when someone posts a video they took to a video-sharing site, and someone else downloads it and shares it without giving credit to the original poster.

If someone downloads a copyrighted song from an unauthorized website and then uploads it to their personal website or blog, they are infringing on the copyright holder’s rights. If the copyright holder finds out and decides to take action, they could sue the person for copyright infringement.
If someone makes a copy of a copyrighted book and gives it to a friend, they are infringing on the copyright holder’s rights. If the copyright holder finds out and decides to take action, they could sue the person for copyright infringement.

For those who are not well versed in copyright this can be relatively easy to do. As such it is important for creators to be aware of copyright to avoid issues that may arise.



What are the key copyright exemptions?


There are a number of key copyright exemptions which allow individuals to use copyrighted material without obtaining permission from the copyright holder. These exemptions are typically used for educational or research purposes, or for criticism, commentary, news reporting, and parody.

One of the most important copyright exemptions is the fair use doctrine. Fair use allows individuals to use copyrighted material without permission for purposes such as criticism, commentary, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. In order to determine whether a particular use is fair, courts will consider factors such as the purpose and character of the use, the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount and substantiality of the portion used, and the effect of the use on the potential market for the work.

Another important copyright exemption is the first sale doctrine. This doctrine allows individuals to resell or otherwise dispose of lawfully-acquired copies of copyrighted works without the permission of the copyright holder. For example, an individual who purchases a book is free to sell that book to someone else without the permission of the author or publisher.

There are also a number of exemptions which allow for the use of copyrighted material in certain situations, such as when the use is for educational purposes orwhen the work is in the public domain.

These are covered in more detail on the GOV.UK website.

They’re listed as follows:

  1. Text and data mining for non-commercial research
  2. Criticism, review and reporting current events
  3. Teaching
  4. Helping disabled people
  5. Time-shifting
  6. Parody, caricature and pastiche
  7. Sufficient acknowledgement
  8. Fair dealing
  9. Technological protection measures


Need help ensuring you are copyright compliant? Get in touch with our team for assistance by entering your enquiry into our contact form.


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For more IP answers, review our FAQ section here.

Disclaimer: This FAQ should not be construed as legal advice on any specific facts. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only. You are urged to consult your own solicitor on any specific legal questions you may have.

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