Sometimes, in our quest to market our small business, we unintentionally infringe on a copyright, trademark or on the intellectual property owned by someone else. The law increasingly favors the owner of the copyright over the “infringer” even if it was done in ignorance.
Infringement ranges from images taken from the Internet to snippets of music in the background of a video on our site to text copied from a book, magazine or website to impersonations of celebrities.
Choosing a name too similar to a celebrity’s or a parody of a trademarked name can result in huge fines, court orders to cease and desist using the name, or closure. Before you spend design and marketing dollars using a name or logo that could be an infringement, take the time to get permission to use it. One small coffee shop owner chose a name to honor a favorite singer (now deceased) and was sued by the copyright holders of the singer’s brand. Not only did she have hefty fines, she lost the entire business she had save for several years to open.
A common practice of dragging an image you like out of a browser search onto your desktop and reusing it could result in the loss of your business. Do not give an image to your designer that you do not have permission to use. Even placing images on a flyer that you just intend to photocopy can result in problems for your business.
If you have been in the practice of downloading or “clipping” images that you don’t have permission to use, remove them from your computer and all backups so that down the line someday you don’t inadvertently use them and lose the company you so lovingly built up.
Only use music you have permission to use.
Since the fines can be costly, and even devastating, to a small business, here is some information that might help you identify if you are overstepping your rights.