Digital technology and electronic publishing have presented a number of issues in relation to intellectual property rights. These issues face us all, whether we publish on the Web, or just view pages in our browser. It is very difficult to regulate infringements of copyright in relation to the Web, and so ensuring awareness of acceptable use of the Internet is particularly important in order to ensure breaches do not take place, and that the liability of the institution can be minimised.
Copyright and the Internet
The Internet has made it possible for searchers to surf through millions of pages of information in a matter of seconds. People who distribute material on the Internet do so because they want its massive readership to access their work. However, by the very nature of such distribution, they can also expect that their material will be downloaded, copied and used in some way. But, information accessed on the Internet is subject to copyright law just as printed sources are.
Copying from the Internet
So what should you do when you find information on the Internet that you want to copy? Even before you consider downloading and printing a page, let alone copying it for any other purpose, you should attempt to locate a copyright notice or usage statement from the author or publisher associated with that page. In the case of web site this might be on the site’s home page or viewed on another page via a link. If there is no statement, or the purpose for which you want the material is not listed as being permitted, then you will have to seek permission of the site owner or the author to use the material. Most sites will provide an email address for contact.
If you are copying the material because you want to include it in web site of your own, rather than copying the material, you should consider simply quoting the appropriate URL or linking to it and letting your readers consult the source material online. You should draw their attention to any copyright notice on that site, and (if possible or appropriate) direct them to the home page with the copyright and/or usage statement on it first. It is advisable to have some sort of statement on your web page saying in effect that when the user follows the link to another site, the page they are going to will be copyright of someone else and that the user should read the copyright statement on the target page.
The Internet is subject to copyright, and WEB pages are themselves literary works. In a single World Wide Web page, there can be dozens of different copyright. The consent of the copyright holder is required for each act of copying.
The legality of hypertext links is still developing, but although you are not actually copying material by hyper-linking you may be authorising another user to copy the material to which you are linking, especially if the owner of the linked page is unclear. Links should be considered carefully, and if possible permission to establish a link should be requested from the page or site owner/webmaster. As a general rule of thumb, if linking out to other web-pages, check that the author is identified on that work. It is also best to link to a home page, rather than deeper into a site where ownership may be unclear and navigation to the Homepage may be difficult.
Online and CD-ROM Database
The downloading of information from online databases is governed by the terms of the licence from the information provider under subscription or service contract. When signing up for access to an online database, end-users will normally sign a contract which will explicitly describe in the small print precisely what is allowed in terms of reproducing information retrieved. The printing out, copying, downloading is therefore governed by the specific condition of the licence agreement.
Copying from an e-Journal, online database or CD-ROM
The license is usually pretty clear as to how much you can copy (or download), the purposes for which you can do that copying, and for what you can and cannot subsequently use the material. The systematic downloading of individual sections of, for example, a database in order that you can build your own equivalent is (usually) expressly forbidden in such licenses.
The terms and conditions of the license will vary from product to product, and you are strongly advised to read the relevant license or online advice about the product before attempting to copy any of the material you are accessing.
According to licence agreements which the University of Pretoria has with different databases, all staff members (academics or support staff) are not allowed to download and save a copy of .PDF file (from one of the databases. - e.g. Elsevier, Science Direct or EBSCOHOST, etc) and place this PDF file on any WEB SITE of the University (including placing on CLICK-UP or Electronic reserve) but we are allowed to incorporate links to the “excerpts”
Scanning printed material for use electronically
Copyright Act simply refers to 'copying' and doesn't distinguish between photocopying and scanning, so the same rules apply, i.e. for copying for non-commercial research and private study the same limits apply in respect of copying and restrictions on use whether the material is being photocopied or scanned.
In particular, you should NOT scan and then make multiple printed copies or re-publish and distribute the material in electronic form (i.e. via CLICK-UP, an Intranet, or the wider Internet), unless you have been given permission by the copyright owner to do so.
Who owns Copyright in an electronic material?
Copyright is theoretically owned by the creator of the work, be it a literary work, a musical work, a dramatic work etc. But if the creator is an employee, and the works were created in the course of employment, the copyright will belong with the employer. This becomes far more problematic when there is joint ownership of works, which is of course very common with Web sites. Also ownership of copyright can, like any other property, be sold or assigned, and may therefore change hands after its initial creation.
What can you copy in an electronic environment?
There is no definitive legal position concerning electronic copying and its relation to copyright on the Internet. However, it is accepted that information on the Internet is protected by copyright, and a work in electronic form on your screen should not be copied any more than a printed work. Unless specific permission is given on a Web page, the work should not be copied without prior permission from the publisher of that material. You should NEVER make multiple copies of a document unless permission is given on the page(s).
When putting something on the Internet, you should check carefully that you own copyright, baring in mind that you can't always tell if copyright is breached. Do not scan pictures without checking who holds the copyright, or use video or audio clips without permission.
‘Fair Use’ in electronic material
The "fair use" provision of the Copyright Act 98 of 1978 allows the copying of a limited amount from a book, periodical or similar publication for research and private study. There is no specified amount for electronic copies however, and so as a rule of thumb you should consider whether you would feel the amount you are copying would be acceptable if this was your own work.
Who will be liable for infringement?
Civil Liability may also occur as a result of copyright, particularly of obsence publications. There are two dangers with regard to civil case; with vicarious liability the employer is liable for the acts of employees carried out during employment, and with direct liability, the organisation or institution may be seen as acting as publisher, and hence held accountable.
Liability is extremely strict, and encouraging or authorising someone to infringe copyright, even if you didn't know, is an infringement in itself. The university may be found liable for supplying the use of the equipment.
Criminal Liability, which can attract fines and jail sentences may be a result of copyright infringements, as well as infringements of the Copyright Act.