Somewhat recently, I uploaded a video of one of my students performing a J.S. Bach Invention to Facebook and Instagram. I was SO proud of her for completing it and wanted to share it with the entire world.
You can imagine my utter confusion and frustration when the video was flagged for . . . copyright infringement?
How could this be possible!? J.S. Bach died hundreds of years ago, and his work is long past entering the period of public domain. Legally, Bach’s music is generally fair game for anyone to use and profit off of.
After a bit of research on the subject, I concluded that most likely, my student performed her piece so well that it matched closely with one of the other recordings that is floating around for sale somewhere.I put in a request for review, and her video was re-approved.
For me, this situation highlighted something I already knew, but don’t think about very often: just how easy it is for modern technology to able to recognize when something is the SAME as something else!
Copyright infringement is a subject that is largely ignored and/or not taken seriously by a lot of musicians. Since the dawn of time, musicians and artists have been piggybacking on the work of others. It’s built into the fabric of our entire career.
What is Copyright Infringement?
Copyright infringement is taking someone else’s website content or design and passing it off as your own.
When it comes to your website, this isn’t something to mess with. It has consequences that you might not realize are an issue.
Why You Should Not Steal from Other Websites
Let’s start with what SHOULD be obvious and SHOULD have been learned in kindergarten:
Taking something that belongs to someone else without express permission is STEALING.
At its most innocent, it’s rude. At its most damaging, it harms another business.
Aside from the moral issue, there are both legal and search engine optimization reasons not to skim content from other websites.
DMCA and DRM Laws
In the United States, there’s this amazing thing called the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act), which was enacted WAY back in 1998 when Bill Clinton was still in office.
The DMCA protects copyright owners from people who violate copyright laws in the U.S. It created an easy venue to report copyright infringement.
Outside of the United States, website hosts in countries who are part of the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organizations) follow DRM (digital rights management) laws, and will uphold the DMCA.
Usually the process of having stolen content removed from a website begins with a cease and desist letter or email. If the content is not removed, the copyright holder has the right to file a DMCA notice. This is issued to the hosting company of the offending website.
The hosting will investigate and remove the content. Usually this means that the entire website is taken down until you are able to get in there and remove the content.
Search Engine Optimization
Google really doesn’t like websites that try to cheat, and they’re watching you.
One of the big factors in Google’s search engine algorithm is that they check whether or not you are using the same text content as another website.
If you are in the same market as another music school, and using the same exact text, whoever had the text on their website first is likely going to rank higher on the natural search listings.
Common Copyright Infringement Issues on Websites
When we build a publicly accessed website, there are a few items that can be easily stolen by anyone else:
- Text (In web design world, we call this “copy”)
Using an Image without Permission
Images are probably the most common copyright infringement issue.It’s so easy to screenshot, or right click and save an image that you like. Just because it is easy, it does not mean you should be doing it.
I actually do photography as a hobby, and I know I’d be livid if someone were to take one of my photos and use it for commercial gain. I can’t imagine how I would feel if someone did that with something that was my livelihood!
Professional photographers are notoriously (and rightly) diligent about finding their work out on the internet and coming after people who are stealing it.
How to keep it legal:
Instead of doing a google image search and taking whatever photo suits you, try using a free stock photo website such as pexels.com or unsplash.com. If you have a little money to spend, there are also many paid stock photo sites out there.
The best option is to take your own photos. An iPhone takes great photos! Better yet – hire a photographer! It’s not as expensive as you may think, and the photos are incredibly useful for marketing your music lesson business, because they’re actually your students!
Using Text Without Permission
One of my clients, unbeknownst to me, copied and pasted a lot of content from someone else’s site that was halfway across the world, and about 6 months after the site was launched, we received a DMCA notice and that client’s website was shut down by the host.
This situation, along with the fact that Google doesn’t like duplicate content for SEO, is reason enough not to take text from other websites. It doesn’t help you in any way at all.
How to keep it legal:
If you REALLY like the text on someone else’s website, copy it into a word document, and then paraphrase it in your own way. Treat it as you would a high school or college term/research paper.
If you aren’t good at writing, hire someone (a copywriter) who IS.
How do I protect my work from copyright infringement?
You really can’t. You can only handle having it removed once it is out there.
Keep in mind that everything on the internet can be accessed by anyone if they really want to get to it.
Once it is out there, there are legal routes you can take to have the content removed. First, you would try to contact the offender, and then if they do not respond, you would file a DMCA claim.
If you have any questions about copyright infringement or filing a DMCA claim, don’t hesitate to contact me! I also offer copywriting services for music teachers.
Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.