How to win friends and infringe copyright

Sometimes it’s really easy to mess up the simplest things. Recently we made a mistake and infringed someone’s copyright. Fortunately that mistake didn’t bite us on the backside too badly. In fact, it put us onto some lawyers who know what they’re about and who we hope to make friends with.

Our last post was a well-meaning attempt to explain the difference between a solicitor and a lawyer. When it came time to publish our article, we went and found what we thought was a pretty sweet picture. In the time-honoured fashion, we achieved this by doing a Google search, picking the best looking image and whacking it straight on our post. The problem was we didn’t stop to think who owned the image. Or, more importantly, who owned the right to reproduce it. This sacred right is known as copyright. In Australia, copyright is regulated by the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The Copyright Act tells us that the right to publish or reproduce the work (ie. what we did) belonged to the author (ie. not us). In our case (and without delving too deeply), the people who created the image we used was the Canberra firm Howes Kaye Halpin. They, helpfully and politely, pointed this out to us and gave us the opportunity to tell the world that.

Hopefully, this salutary tale demonstrates that its very easy to inadvertently breach another person’s copyright, particularly in the Internet era where so much content is so easily available. This doesn’t always (but it could) lead to a legal dispute but it can definitely be embarrassing. Best advice – don’t use an image (or anything else that you didn’t create) unless you know where it came from, who owns the copyright and the basis on which you can reproduce it.

And if you’re based in Canberra, check out Howes Kaye Halpin. They have heaps of great articles on their site. And, their office is perfectly located upstairs from a great suburban pub.