Although commonly associated with literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic compositions, copyrights also apply to business (and personal) website copy, including blogs. There are statutory penalties for unauthorized reproduction (copying without permission or attribution), so even an accidental infringement can result in a lawsuit for penalties and attorney fees. And if an employee sends a copyrighted work to a client or customer, those individuals also could be targeted in a lawsuit by the copyright owner. The National Federation of Independent Businesses published a helpful article on copyright infringement which is summarized below.
Copyrights protect authorship of published and unpublished original works. You cannot copyright facts, ideas or systems, but the way in which they are expressed may be protected. A copyright technically protects a work the moment the work is created and set in a tangible form, but registering the work with the United States Copyright Office gives copyright owners greater protection. A copyrighted work may not be reproduced without permission from the copyright owner.
Always get permission to use copyrighted material
Find out who owns the copyright by searching the records at the United States Copyright Office (or have your IP attorney do so), then send a written request indicating how and why you wish to use the copyrighted material. For materials found online, ask the website owner.
Assume the work is copyrighted
Material may be subject to copyright protection even if you do not see the copyright © symbol.
Assume you’ll get caught
Many businesses pay for services to monitor unauthorized use of their copyrighted material. Don’t cut and paste without permission.