How To Make Links
Copyright Info

The following article is from the August 1996 issue of PC World, "Internet Survival Guide" You may be able to find the complete issue at PC World Online.


Bob Minnick spent 300 hours creating and refining Beginner's Central, a series of how-to Web pages for cyberspace newcomers. Then one day he discovered entire portions of his work running in a new online magazine without any attribution. "I started reading and said, 'Wait. This is what I did,'" recalls Minnick. "I went from shock to outrage." Unsure about what to do next, Minnick posted a question on, a Web page hosted by Information Law Alert's Mark Voorhees, asking: "Is my home page protected under copyright law?"

You bet it is. All original work, whether or not it bears the copyright symbol or some other explicit statement of ownership, is protected by copyright law. That means you can't use somebody else's work as you own or distribute it without permission from the author or owner of the copyright (often the publisher). "Cyberspace feels like such a public place that people assume everything is free," says attorney Rose. "It's one of the biggest myths about the online world."

Certain limited uses are allowed under the "fair use" provision of the U.S. copyright law. For example: If you're copying only a small portion of a document (say, one or two paragraphs of an article) and citing the original source, then you're okay. It's also considered legally acceptable to copy a document you find online to your hard drive for personal use. But when you post that file you a mailing list or on a public forum or companywide, or when you modify HTML files and then call the documents your own, you've just infringed on someone's copyright.

Minnick discovered, for example, that the offending e-zine publisher had taken his files from a Usenet posting, which hadn't credited the original source. "I tried to track it down, but by that time the original message had expired and the publisher had not bothered to keep the original copy," says Minnick. Fortunately, once the publisher was notified of the problem, he quickly issued an apology and withdrew the issue from circulation.

With the help of powerful search engines like Alta Vista and Infoseek, large publishers are hunting down unauthorized uses of their material. Last April, for example, Washington University instructor Lorrie Cranor received a "cease and desist" letter from an attorney for the Washington Post. Her offense? Three years ago Cranor posted a Post article on a Web page that served as a reference for her students. The page includes hundreds of articles and pointers to other locations. Although Cranor is covered under the fair use provision of copyright law (which allows for such educational use), she decided not to fight. "We didn't want to become a test case. The article wasn't that great anyway," says Cranor.

Moral: You create it-you own it. They create it-they own it. Current copyright laws apply online as well.


I created all of the pages and images you see here. I did not steal images, text, or any ideas from any other site. Don't write to me asking if you can use my material. The answer is no. However, if you would like to use a paragraph or less of any of the text on these pages, you may do so provided that you state that the text comes from Gilpo and also maintain an active link to Isn't this a lot better than getting sued?

I don't mean to sound like a jerk, it's just that I've put a lot of work into this site and I don't want it taken from me. It's called stealing. Don't do it!

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1996-1999 Gilpo All rights reserved. This document may not be altered in anyway or distributed without the expressed written consent of Gilpo. All information contained herein is deemed to be accurate but is not warranted.