Being aware of and protecting  your own intellectual property rights is important but so is understanding the rights of other people in regard to their material which you may come into contact with. For example, before engaging a web designer, you should check that  you own the rights in art work, designs, text and photos, films and music which is likely to have been created by others but which you intend to provide to the designer to use or develop for the website. If you are using a different graphic designer,  check that the designer of your logos has sanctioned on-line use.  Secure all these rights in writing before any investment is made; that way you can still decide to use new designs if problems crop up.  You will also need to check that you do not unwittingly infringe third party trademarks, particularly if your on-line target market is geographically wider than your current market.

Infringement of other people’s copyright is a hot topic these days. You should be aware that if you copy or adapt a copyright work, or authorise someone else to, you would be likely to be committing  a primary infringement of copyright. Even dealing with material which you know or have reason to believe is infringing someone else’s copyright would be a ‘secondary’ infringement.

Be wary of anything which appears to be in “the public domain” – for example on the web. Material sent over the internet or stored on web servers is generally protected in the same way as material in other media. It is a common misapprehension that once material is posted on the internet it somehow enters the public domain. Better to use an online library of stock material, sometimes royalty free. There is such a thing as “fair use” of copyrighted material but it does not generally extend to commercial use – which utilising something on your business’ website for example – would be.

If you intend to publish copyright material on the internet, or download material which someone else has published on the internet, you must ensure that you have the permission of the copyright owner. It is also not the case that it is sufficient merely to include an attribution or acknowledgement of the copyright owner when you use their material. For commercial use express written permission is needed and they would be entitled to levy a charge.

Nothing in this awareness article is intended as legal advice. If you have a specific legal requirement or query you should consult a solicitor directly.