Just Because It’s Easy Doesn’t Make It Legal

No, this is not the advice I give my kids as I send them off to college. It is actually advice I give in seminars I present on legal issues in the social media world. And the point is pretty obvious I think. Despite all the advances in technology over the last decade/year/week many of the governing laws have stayed constant. So, the basic philosophy of copyright law – that you can’t use another person’s creative content without that person’s consent – is still the law. The fact that it is so freaking easy to copy content doesn’t change that. Here’s an excellent piece on the broader subject in the context of a discussion of what happened to the recent amateur photo of the shuttle launch. Stefanie Gordon took the shot from her window seat on a flight from New York to Palm Beach and tweeted it. From there on any number of sites posted it at will. But in so doing, she never waived her copyright in the photo. And she never transferred any kind of license to Twitter users to post the photo. The whole scenario presents some complex and nuanced questions that really need to be looked at if you use content from any online site. Who knows, you might even want to talk it over with a lawyer!*

*Note – Shameless self promotion alert.