Copyright Online: What to Look Out For

A business owner looks at a screen filled with different media to add to their website

Whether it’s for a hobby, social event, or ingenious business idea—everyone who creates a website will have to deal with the subject of copyright at some point. Images, text, videos, and music are usually protected by copyright. But without them, a website would be pretty dull.

But what is copyright? Who’s it for? And what should you watch out for when it comes to copyrighted content? We’ll answer all of these questions in this article, and provide a quick overview of the most important points with our copyright checklist.

Let’s start with the basics: the definition of copyright.

What is copyright?

In a legal sense, copyright regulates whether and how third-party content may be used. The following products fall under copyright law:

  • Images such as professional photographs
  • Videos like films or short films
  • Quoted text and programming code
  • Music such as songs and compositions

So if you don’t have your own images, text, videos, or music to upload to your website, you should check whether the content you do want to use is protected by copyright. Depending on the laws in your country and whether or not you’ve profited from using the material (eg. used it for business purposes), copyright infringement could lead to a warning, a fine, or legal action. 

The author’s rights

Copyright protects the interests of the author. The two main ones are financial compensation and control over the redistribution of their work. The current legal regulation ensures the protection of intellectual creation. For example, an author can order that their images or videos may be used for one year only, or not for commercial purposes.

So, what does that actually mean? Imagine you need to liven up your website with professional photos, but you don’t have any of your own to hand. Where can you get some without stealing? Serious stock photo providers such as Unsplash or Shutterstock are ideal in this situation because they guarantee that the image rights are entirely clear. Take a look at the licenses for each image. Free photos often use a Creative Commons license.

When you create your website or online store with Jimdo, you get your own Image Library built-in. It’s packed with royalty-free images tailored to your industry that you can use on your website—100% free of charge.

Bring your business online with Jimdo.

Royalty-free images, videos, and music

If you’re looking for royalty-free images, music, text, or video content for your website, your search will quickly lead you to databases of royalty-free photos. But what exactly does royalty-free mean in this context? Royalty-free images are not always free of charge.

In many cases, royalty-free means that you have to purchase a one-time standard license and then there are no further regular fees. So, before using the images, check the terms of use to see which requirements must be met in order to avoid copyright infringement.

What happens in the event of copyright infringement?

Using material without the author’s consent is a violation of copyright. Law firms can send warnings and cease and desist letters on behalf of rights holders to claim damages or ask you to remove the content. If you infringe someone’s copyright, you might have to pay charges like:

  • Damages
  • Warning fees
  • Legal fees 
  • Appraisal fees

If you receive a warning, don’t ignore it. After all, the person issuing the warning could be in the wrong, or the claim could be too high. Copyright infringement can result in civil and criminal law consequences, so it shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s best to find out about the terms of use and any restrictions before using third-party content.

Differences between personal and commercial websites

You may be wondering whether copyright varies with personal and commercial websites. In general, as soon as content is published online, it’s copied and no longer private. So using content from external sources on your personal website without checking the copyright can have legal consequences, as only the author or the owner of the rights of use is allowed to that material.

Frequently asked copyright questions

Be cautious when using images, music, and videos from third-party sources. At first glance, it’s not always easy to tell whether something is protected by copyright. So if you’re thinking of creating your own website or online store, get clued up on the license conditions for photos, videos, and songs that you didn’t create yourself. Keep reading for answers to the most important copyright questions.

What does copyright mean?

Copyright is a collection of legal regulations for the protection of intellectual property. Among other things, it ensures that the creator of a work is compensated when their work is used.

What is protected by copyright?

Copyright protects a work of intellectual creation. If a work meets this requirement, it’s automatically protected by copyright. Intellectual creation can be images, videos, texts, or music, for example.

Who does copyright protect?

Copyright protects the author of a work. The author could be, for example, a photographer, composer, director, or journalist. Copyright protection generally expires 70 years after the death of the author.

What does copyright-free mean?

Copyright-free or royalty-free content can generally be used freely. However, in some cases, there are restrictions around commercial use, editing, or a requirement to name the author when you use the work.

How are copyrights protected?

In the US, copyright protection begins automatically when a work is created. No registration is required. The law protects the author’s interests such as financial compensation and control over the redistribution of their work.

Can you reproduce works protected by copyright?

You can make a copy of a work that’s protected by copyright if it’s only for private use. The same generally applies to copies made for church or school use, as well as for the benefit of disabled people.

Who can be an author?

In the US, anyone who creates works through their own intellectual achievement can be an author. Typical authors include writers, composers, photographers, filmmakers, programmers, and painters.

When does copyright not apply?

Copyright applies from the moment of creation, i.e. when an author has completed their work and generally expires 70 years after the author’s death. The work must represent a creative personal achievement to be considered copyrighted.

Copyright checklist for your website

About to publish your website or online store? Do a copyright check first to be on the safe side.

  • Images, music, and videos: Is the content royalty-free, and can it be freely shared online? Check the terms of use to find out under which circumstances you can use the media. It may require a reference to the source or a one-time license fee.
  • Photos of people: If you want to publish photos of another person, you have to get their permission first. In the case of children, you should ask their legal guardian.
  • Brand logos: It’s advisable to get consent from the trademark owner here too. If it’s just for a product description, you can enter the brand name without a logo.
  • Maps: You’re fine as long as you indicate the source and have consent from the creator of the map. Linking to Google Maps is okay if you display a data protection notice for the cookies.

The Jimdo Legal Text Generator

Have you completed the copyright check? Is all the third-party content you’ve used provided with a source and licensed? Great! What about GDPR-compliant legal texts? In addition to copyright, there are other legal things to consider when creating your website. 

If you use Jimdo and you’re based in the EU, you can generate watertight legal texts like your Imprint, Terms and Conditions, Privacy Policy, and Returns Policy with our Legal Text Generator.

Lukas Thies
Lukas is a Senior Copywriter at Jimdo and writes blog articles and marketing copy in German. In his free time, he enjoys nature and the good food of his adopted region, Andalucia.
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