Copyright originally regulated production of published, printed works, but the Internet has drastically changed how people find information. Today, Internet law in the Maryland and D.C. areas involves copyright laws for Internet-based businesses and businesses that use the Internet for publication. For this reason, anyone who operates a website or conducts business on the Internet needs to become familiar with Internet law as well as copyright law protections.
Copyright law basics
Any creative work produced after 1978 that is fixed in some tangible form is subject to copyright laws. Meaning, a defense lawyer assumes all Web content is copyrighted, unless it explicitly states otherwise. Copyright laws are federal laws, so someone wishing to file a copyright lawsuit needs to do so in federal court. Additionally, defense attorneys understand that it can be very difficult for someone to enforce copyright protection laws if someone from another country steals the online copyrighted items.
Fair use doctrine
The Fair Use Doctrine allows someone to obtain limited excerpts from articles, critiques or other public services. However, the guidelines under the Fair Use Doctrine are relatively unspecific. As a result, a business that has had copyrighted material taken from its website should contact a criminal attorney. An attorney familiar with Internet law can help someone learn how the courts will examine the purpose of the copyrighted material when determining whether or not a violation has occurred.
Digital millennium copyright act
As long as a website takes down the copyrighted material, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act shields the website from liability when a website user commits copyright infringement. As a result, someone could still be committing copyright infringement when YouTube or Facebook allows him or her to upload a particular video. Even if a user uploads the video with the disclaimer that no copyright infringement is intended, he or she may still be violating copyright laws. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act does not absolve the uploading user from liability, so he or she should speak with a defense attorney about the copyright status of material uploaded online.