Eight Tips to Keep Your Creative Content Protected

The internet empowers us like no other medium to share our creative content with other people. Pictures, texts, video and audio are uploaded every day in an immeasurable number to social networks and other sites. And while registered users to these networks and sites have access to the content as soon as it’s publically uploaded, the original creative content belongs to the person who uploaded it in the first place. When it comes to handling the legality of these situations, it varies by country, but remains focused on one question: How can one manage author’s rights in an acceptable manner for the creator as well as for the internet users who want to consume the content? And there’s no clear cut answer; the internet is arguably the biggest challenge for a transnational regulation of author’s copyrights and personal rights.

Most important in avoiding infringement is to first consider the visibility of the content and how the creator specified will how it may or should be used. Social platforms like Facebook, Google+, Flickr or YouTube regulate these instances, many offering creative commons options within their platforms. Before uploading any creative content of your own for the first time, be sure to read the general conditions of the platform to be aware of how your content can be used if you share it there – can people take it at free will? Do they need to attribute back to the source? May users pay to re-use your content? In many cases, the biggest issue here is general understanding of legal conditions; it’s no surprise that legalese isn’t all that easily digestible by the average person. But in addition to this, the guidelines described by social platforms may not always line up with expectations or even with the law in some countries. So the real question is, how can users protect their copyright but also allow for more widespread sharing of their content?

The most well-known way to protect your rights is to file under Creative Commons. Creative Commons  uses a three-layer model which includes (1.) a legally formulated license contract, (2.) a more “understandable” shorter version for the average user (also called “commons deed”) and (3.) a machine-readable version (called “CC Rights Expression Language – CC REL”), which makes it easy to find under Creative Commons published content. The advantage of this concept is that it takes the legal rules into account but also presents them in a transparent and understandable manner for the average user, and provides a machine-readable version that secures a practical and automated implementation. And most importantly, Creative Commons licenses are available in country-specific versions so users need not worry about what to do to accord with their local law.

If you’re a creator of content who publishes online, here are eight tips to ensure your copyright is protected on the web:

  1. First and foremost, think very carefully about the content you want to make available online. Remember, once something is published online, it’s nearly impossible to delete it – it’s there forever.
  2. Remember the internet is not necessarily a free legal area. All existing legal regulations apply for user generated content. Legal disputes usually arise because of a misunderstanding over the common rapid fire changes to social networks’ policies.
  3. After you know which content you want to upload, consider the level of protection you’d like on it. Even if legal regulation exists, it’s important to clearly state what is allowed and not allowed when it comes to other people reusing your content.
  4. Consider which license model best fits your protection preferences. That is, think about what you want to achieve by uploading your content to the web. Are you looking for wide circulation? You may want to include commercial usage as an option. Are you looking to promote your personal brand? Might be better to discourage commercial use or derivative works and require attribution.
  5. Carefully read the general terms and conditions of the platforms on which you’d like to share your content and decide whether they are in line with your overall goals for your work.
  6. Be aware that several platforms, including YouTube, do not accept uploads of user generated content under free license models. Again, read and re-read the terms and conditions before sharing!
  7. If you have content that requires special protection, one option is to upload it on a blog using a licensing model and just post the link to share it on other platforms. Or, you can use photo-sharing platforms like Flickr that have catered their general terms and to the free license models and provide the support needed to enforce it.
  8. Has somebody used your content incorrectly? It’s always best to try to get in touch with him or her before taking legal action; many times it’s a result of a misunderstanding of conditions and the situation can be quickly cleared up.

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