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Copyright and multimedia on the Web

Gran Morne Park, Newfoundland, CanadaSo if you have come across some media on the Web that you like what can you legally do with it? The term legally is important here, because for any item on the Web (a network) we know we can make an exact copy it and save it on our computer or a memory card/stick attached to our computer.

All the media is on one platform – the Web. That has implications for how  the media is distributed, how it is used,  and how it is valued. Copies have little value because they can be easily made. Consider – we can legally listen to music anywhere on the Web. Another  example is There we can upload our music and listen to it through any Web connection.  Because the media is available through one platform it is essentially in one format – digital as we stated earlier, and so it can be easily modified and different items can be combined.

The way the law in the U.S. is written, much of what we’re likely to find on the Web is copyrighted material. Copyright does not have ot be claimed or asserted on a Web site.  Whenever a  work such as text, audio, images, or video is given a form such as being put on the Web, The person or entity that created it automatically holds the copyright on that item. To be sure, there are a few exceptions such as items that have been put into the public domain or items produced by employees of the U.S. Government.  The holder of the copyright on an item has the exclusive right to:

  • make, sell or distribute copies
  • create new items based on the copyrighted item

These right are arguably meant to provide some protection for the person who creates an item so that it is not misused or that any profits derived from the use, sale, or distribution go to the creator. These rights continue for many decades after the death of the original copyright holder, so that some say that copyright laws that give exclusive rights for a long period of time is too restrictive and limits ways we share our culture.

In any case, you need to determine what the copyright restrictions are on an item before you make a copy or modify any media that you’ve found on the Web. This is true regardless of whether the site where you found the material contains any statements claiming copyright or how the material can be used.  If guidelines for using the material are present then follow them.

Some people use Creative Commons to set permissions for the ways their works may be used. This has advantages for both the producer and consumer. A producer can set permissions, either very strict, very lax, or somewhere in between, for reuse of her items. This can be done online, once, and fairly easily. A consumer can easily find the permissions associated with an item. For example, all of Wikipedia is now licensed under a Creative Commons  license that allows for use provided that the use provides proper attribution and any item derived form the Wikipedia source is likewise sharable by others. This is an example of using copyright to put information into the hands of others so it can be shared, remixed, and reused.

The site “Copyright and Fair Use in the Classroom, on the Internet, and the World Wide Web“  explains copyright issues and helps students and faculty determine if they can use information from the Internet is

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