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Facebook & Copyrights

Copyright 2017 - Checker Car Club of America, Inc.

If you are a Facebook contributor, it is likely that once in a while you attach a photo, document or video to your posts. In most cases this is not an issue but can be a real pain if someone thinks you violated their copyright.

If you are wondering about this or have had to face a situation like it, this FAQ can be of help. It's important since the Checker Cab Club runs the Checker World Facebook Group and you are most likely a current or future user of that tool.

So, let's get down to business, since that's what copyrights are all about!

Disclaimer: The following are general guidelines and explanations related to copyrights and should not be construed as legal advice from either the author or the Checker Car Club. If you have a specific copyright issue, please consult with the appropriate individuals before taking action.

Q1: So what's a copyright anyway?

A1: A long, long time ago, some authors, artists and composers saw that their original works were being copied without their permission. So, they got the government (in the USA and elsewhere) to help protect their "intellectual property" (IP) from being appropriated.

Q2: What do you mean by appropriated?

A2: Well, the idea behind a copyright is to protect the ability of the creator/originator to sell (i.e. make money from) their work. Imagine if People magazine publishes an article about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle which someone copies and sends to 100 of his/her friends by email. This then prevents some of those people from buying that issue or signing up for a People magazine subscription. In other words, a copyright is all about making money.

Q3: How do you get a copyright?

A3: If you want to be real formal about it, you can submit a copyright application to the US Patents and Trademarks office (or its equivalent elsewhere). But, this is not actually necessary! All you really need to do is to put a copyright notice on the work itself. A good example is the copyright at the very top of the article: "Copyright 2017 - Checker Car Club of America, Inc." Note that you can also use the copyright symbol instead of spelling out the word "copyright" (See illusration above).

Q4: But what if I don't want to put a notice on my work?

A4: There are lots of reasons why you would not want to put a copyright notice on your work. Imagine if Leonardo DaVinci put this notice on the Mona Lisa: "Copyright 1503 - Da Vinci". It would certainly look odd. But protecting his intellectual property IS the reason that DaVinci and other painters put their name on paintings, sometimes with the year as well. So, if you don't put a copyright notice on the work, then it is likely that people will not know if they can or can't reproduce the work.

Q5: But wait, isn't just about everything protected by copyright laws?

A5: NO! There are lots of works that people want freely distributed. The best example for us Checker Fans are the marketing and advertising documents and photos that Checker Motors used to promote their cars. If you take a look at them, you will see that not a single one has a copyright notice. (Note: Copyrights also expire and the affected documents can then be freely copied.)

Q6: But why didn't Checker Motors put copyrights on these things?

A6: Because the business of Checker Motors was to sell cars, not advertising/marketing materials. In fact, the more those items were circulated (even if copied) the more likely it was for Checker to sell a car. It should be obvious that a Checker brochure is not the same as a song written by Taylor Swift.

Q7: So, if Taylor Swift wrote a song about Checkers, would I be in trouble if I posted it on Facebook?

A7: YUP! As you can tell (now that you've read the above), by posting the song you would be preventing Taylor from making a sale.

Here is Taylor Swift standing on a Checker! Is the photo copyrighted or not? How would you know?

Q8: Yeah, but by posting the song, am I not helping Taylor sell more of them?

A8: That's debatable, but you are still technically violating her IP. A better way to have your cake and eat it too, is to put a link to the song where it's being sold. That way you alert your friends that the song exists and also help Taylor sell more of them. And it is likely that your friends can hear a sample of the song on the site where it's being sold.

Q9: But am I OK if I just copy a snippet of the song that has the Checker words in it?

A9: The answer here is YES. This is an accepted method and is widely used by people who write reviews of songs, albums and/or books. The copyright law actually has statements in it that condones such extracts/excerpts.

Q10: So, what do I do if an item does not have a copyright notice but I want to share it?

A10: You can make an educated guess whether you will or will not post the item. In most cases it won't be a problem. However, it is possible that the copyright owner will see your post or be alerted to it. At that point, they may or may not make an objection.

Q11: But how does this work on Facebook?

A11: Aah. That gets a bit more complicated. In a lot of cases the algorithms that Facebook uses automatically remove items that they feel are protected by copyright. It is likely, for example, that the Taylor Swift song will be taken down immediately and they won't even bother to notify you. But, there are also cases where the copyright owner makes an objection.

Q12: What can the copyright owner do to me if I post their stuff on Facebook?

A12: If the owner is a decent human being, he/she will first simply ask you to take down their IP. Hopefully they will provide you with information to show that, in fact, the item is their property. The problem starts with individuals who deliberately want to make trouble for you. In that case, you need to recognize that Facebook is not (at the outset) on your side.

Q13: What do you mean that "Facebook is not on your side?"

A13. Remember, Facebook now has nearly 2 billion users. There is no way for them to hire enough people to give everyone individualized customer service. So, they try to do everything with computer algorithms. That would be OK if those algorithms were based on decent principles. In the case of copyrights (and many other things) Facebook's policy is to side with whomever is complaining. In their world, you are guilty until proven innocent. They will side with the complainer and take down whatever you posted.

Q14: So how can I get that reversed?

A14: It ain't easy! Facebook will encourage you to contact the person who placed the complaint. You should certainly explore that option and both you and the complainer will have a certain amount of time to come to an agreement. Then, either party can reply to the Facebook ticket and let them know what you have agreed to. Unfortunately, that approach will not work if the complainer is either mean-spirited or has a vindictive streak.

Q15: OK, so I still don't know how I can fight back.

A15: First, remember that this can be an aggravating process. You always have the option to walk away from the issue. After all, a single post on Facebook is only of interest for a short period of time. Why dwell on it? BUT, if the complainer starts making a habit of taking down your posts, you will have no choice but to take him/her on.

Q16: So, tell me how!

A16: First, make sure you keep good records. Make a copy of everything by saving every communication (in chronological order) with screen shots and/or PDF files. This will build up a case against the complainer, especially if his/her claims are bogus and/or upsupportable. Second, act promptly by responding to every notice you get from Facebook. Third, read all of the ways that Facebook lets you place complaints of your own and take advantage of them. Not all complaints are created equal and some are taken more seriously than others. Last, don't lose your cool! Do not start a vicious back and forth argument with the complainer especially on Facebook itself. If you do it, you will come to regret it sooner or later. But, do reach out to your friends and people who know more about Facebook and copyrights than you do. They will help you come up with the right strategy.

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