My question is about online content copyright. The DMCA gives full protection for website owners if the content is user submitted and unreviewed (eg. Youtube). Is there any protection against submitting copyrighted content to your site yourself? Content that's readily available on the Internet (eg. random pictures). Many successful sites have following copyright notice:
"All images on sitename.com are readily available in various places on the Internet and believed to be in public domain. Images posted are believed to be posted within our rights according to the U.S. Copyright Fair Use Act (title 17, U.S. Code.)"
Clearly neither are true, but are 'believed to be' for the sake of pretending to be unaccountable for copyright infringement. What basis does this statement have in law, and have there been any court cases that show the legitemacy of this position? There are thousands of sites that use this. Thank you.
2 Answers from Attorneys
A good faith belief does not eliminate liability for purposes of damages in copyright. If the infringement is done mistakenly and in good faith, however, then the good faith belief can be used to argue for a reduced amount of statutory damages.
I doubt that a judge will give this kind of statement much credence if the good faith belief of the poster is actually challenged. The court will look at how credible the statement is, and the evidence showing how the image ended up on the site.
I've represented a variety of clients on both side of the argument on online infringement of copyrighted materials. The language you mentioned above and the method you proposed to posting copyrighted material (oh which you have no ownership to license to use) will not serve to protect you from copyright infringement claims.
It is a common misunderstanding that merely because a copyrighted material can be found on the internet, it is automatically part of the public domain open for any to use. This is absolutely not the case. Furthermore, claiming that your use is subject to Fair Use protection does not mean you will be granted that protection. Fair Use is a defense you can use in court that requires an analysis of a variety of factors, if the court decides that you do not meet the test required, you will not have access to the protection.
Before you use, distribute, publish, copy, or modify any copyrightable material you find online, it is always a good idea to obtain permission from the owner. Feel free to contact me if you need further clarification on this or contact an attorney in your area.