The internet allows anyone with a computer, or mobile device to create, publish and share content via websites or social media platforms. This user generated content and the ease of sharing it raises new copyright challenges.
Creative content published on a website is protected by the same copyright law as any other work even though it may be freely accessible. You should not copy or reuse other people’s material from websites unless this is permitted (e.g. reuse is granted by the terms and conditions of the site, or by a Creative Commons licence).
Using web content
- Check to see if there is a copyright statement or policy on a website. It may provide guidance on circumstances where it is permitted for material to be copied or reused, for example for personal use. Such statements are often found at the foot of a site’s home page.
- Check to see whether a work has a Creative Commons or other open licence which may allow copying and reuse without permission. But beware: the person who put the material up may themselves not be the copyright owner, or be infringing copyright. See our open licences page for websites where you can search for open licensed content.
- In the absence of any clear copyright statement, consider whether you could copy under fair dealing exceptions.
Linking to websites
Linking to other websites is generally permitted, and often actively encouraged, but it is advisable to check the website terms and conditions before doing so.
Where you use a ‘deep link’ directly to content deep within a website’s structure, you should always give the user the option of finding the homepage as well.
Remember that many pirated works (books, musics, images etc.) are made available on the internet in a way that breaks the law. You should not copy, download or link to any such infringing material.
The ease and immediacy of posting content on social media can result in a casual approach to copyright. However, copyright law still applies and care must be taken.
Be mindful of the following when posting, sharing or reusing content on social networking sites:
- When you upload your own content to a social media site, you still own the copyright. However, by doing so you are normally agreeing to licence your content to be hosted and used, as set out in the terms of service of that site. Always familiarise yourself with the terms and conditions of social media sites you join or use.
- You should not upload anything that you do not own the rights to, unless you have explicit permission from the rights holder to do so. Social media sites will not be held responsible for any legal consequences which may occur as a result of your uploading content which is unlawful.
- Check the conditions of reuse for any copyright material you want to copy or reuse.
- Do not email or transfer copyright material that you have legally downloaded to anyone else.