I cannot claim to be a copyright expert but with a degree in Law and a nearly completed Masters degree in Law, I have extensive knowledge on most law related issues—including copyright and as a blogger, I do believe I should help correct certain widespread misconceptions about online copyright among African bloggers…
Copyright infringement can either be a criminal or civil offence, depending on certain factors. What we must know is that there are strict laws in place to protect the intellectual properties of people—both online and offline.
The internet has made things easily accessible but it does not mean owners of self-created works or copyright owners forfeit their rights simply because their materials are online.
As a blogger, I acknowledge that it is difficult to stay clean online without one way or the other infringing on someone else’s copyright—nevertheless, great efforts and substantial care must be taken to ensure that this does not happen.
And even when it happens and your attention is drawn, you must quickly act in accordance with the law or you could face a long chain of consequence.
For many African bloggers, there is this misconception that you can take the content (be it article or image) of another blogger/person or from any website—and all you have to do is; write source and at best link back to the original owner when you use it on your blog…
This is unlawful and doing so violates the person’s copyright—something most of us regularly or occasionally do, out of ignorance or laziness…
When it comes to copyright, the default position is this; to use the content/material of any other person in this world; you will need express permission from such a person—unless the person has expressly stated that his work can be used for free without such permission being sought.
But then, you can imagine the sort of chaos this will create in the bigger online world if everyone has to email CNN and ask for permission to report or use certain quotes from an article they’ve written.
It is out of the impracticality of the default position of copyright law that we have the principle of FAIR-USAGE by which, you can use a limited portion of another person’s work (let’s say an article). And though what is a limited portion remains ambiguous, there is a general legal consensus (let’s say guidance) that, picking not more than 100 words from an article and properly referencing (providing source and link back) would amount to fair-usage. Here, you do not need permission to QUOTE PROPERLY 100 or less words of another person’s article—take note of my words; quote properly. You must source correctly (full name of the person’s website and a link back) just as you will reference properly if it was a school/university coursework.