How to Legally Use Content From the Web

Recent issues I have had with Modern Soapmaking articles and eBooks (exclusively in our previous Next Level group) were all copyright violations. I realized that not everyone knows if they are allowed to use content from the internet. (Everyone I’ve had to contact was great at removing copied material and I hope it remains that w

This is something I have noticed in the font industry. (I’m a slight type of geek.)

Let’s dive in and talk about the basics of legal content use

The best thing about the internet? It opens up a vast array of information, media, resources, and tools. However, some digital content can create confusion and blur the lines between traditional copyright law and what can be used legally.

Let’s look at what you can and cannot do with the content that you find on the wide-open ocean of the internet.

I found something on a website, blog, eBook, magazine, or other publication that was interesting. May I quote it?

Quote, yes. Copy, no. You might be wondering what the difference is.

You can quote from other websites to support your work or express an opposing opinion. This falls under Fair Use. It is important to clearly state that you did not create the content in the quote. The source of the quote.

You cannot copy any information and make it stand alone, regardless of whether you are using it on your website or in a Facebook group.

If you like an article and would like to share it with others send the link. To give others an idea of the content, you can even quote from it.

Additional resources:

  • How to NOT Steal People’s Content from the Web
  • Can I Cite Someone Else’s Works Without Permission?
  • Is it fair use? 7 Questions to Ask Before You Use Copyrighted Material

Can I link to another’s blog or website?

Yes! People love to be linked. Especially if it’s positive. Sometimes, however, the owner might ask you to delete a link. If you are concerned about legal issues, it is up to you to decide whether you remove the link. For example, libel or defamation. We don’t have to worry about this, right?

Can I use an image I did not create but found on Google?

Most likely not. Probably not! You may be able to use royalty-free stock photos in certain cases. You will need to check the license that allows you to use this image. It is illegal to use works of other artists without permission.

You can now stop using Google image searches to locate a photo of lavender fields for your social media. These images can be found in Google image searches because they were created by others and are available on their websites. You wouldn’t go into someone’s home and change clothes or eat their food.

There are many great resources available for royalty-free stock photos. They come with fully open licensing which allows you to do anything you like with the images, with credit or without credit. Below are a few.

Additional resources:

  • What Can I Do With That Picture? Visual Communication Guy – Easy to understand infographic
  • Bloggers beware! You could get sued if you use photos that are not yours on your blog
  • Pixabay – Free stock photos
  • Unsplash – Free stock photos
  • Morguefile – Free stock photos
  • Africa Images – Free stock photos

Can I use a font that I downloaded to my website, marketing materials, or logo?

Tricky, tricky! This is one I realized many people don’t think about.

Let’s start by clarifying something. To install a font on your computer or website, a font file is needed. The typeface refers to the design of letters, numbers, and other elements. This distinction is crucial in the US, as fonts can be protected while typefaces cannot. Technically, you can recreate a typeface if you have the skills. This is not true in other countries. Let’s get to the point!

Fonts are copyrighted as they are software pieces that were created by the type designer. A lot of times, a designer will release a font to download on a website with a personal use license. This means that it cannot be used for commercial purposes. Your website, marketing materials, and logo are all commercial ventures. You are violating the font’s creator’s guidelines by downloading the font, installing it on your computer, then using it to create your logo.

Check the license before you use a font in commercial settings. You may have obtained a pirated copy of the font if there isn’t one. They are all over the place. Find the original designer to find out what you can and can’t do with it, or not use it.

A commercial license will often be available. It will detail exactly what you are allowed and prohibited from doing with a font. Open Font Licenses are available for some fonts, such as the one I used on Modern Soapmaking. This means that they can be freely used as long as there is no profit from their resale.

Am I responsible for the content that others post to my website via comments or reviews?

Probably… surprise! Your website is your responsibility. Although you can set terms and conditions to determine whether or not your website is responsible for material contributed by others, it might not be legally binding if something goes wrong.

Here’s how this impacts our industry. You know the glowing review Sally gave your activated charcoal soap. She claims it has cured her skin. This can be taken to mean that you are making a medical claim by publishing the claim on your site and supporting it.

Social media is the same! The FDA has recently taken action against a company that liked Facebook posts from customers who made claims and also posted tweets.  

It’s not easy to understand, but it is worth the effort!

However, I must admit that this overview is a simplified version of what you are allowed and not allowed to do. This is not legal advice.

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