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Copyright and Trademark Infringement

November 19, 2019 7496

Did you know web-related copyright or trademark infringement allegations have increased in recent years? This growth is due to people using internet domain names, graphics or text without the permission of the original owner.

Photos, videos, graphics, music and text published on the internet are not public domain; copyright laws protect these materials. Citing or crediting the original copyright owner does not grant freedom to use content without obtaining documented permission to do so. Even “shareware” or “royalty-free” media such as clip art require users to read and accept the terms of use agreement. Review the provisions of any user agreement to ensure you do not use material in a way that violates the contract. In addition, if selling products on your website, obtain written permission to use trademarked words or symbols associated with the brand.

Adhere to the same Dental Practice Act regulations that apply to print and radio advertisements when promoting your practice online. The Federal Trade Commission published Endorsement Guides to assist with navigating online advertising issues. Protections against internet copyright infringement fall under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998; penalties range from civil fines to incarceration for criminal acts.

Regardless of whether you hire a vendor to create a website or do it yourself, the site’s content is your responsibility. Employing a website designer or development firm may assist in establishing your online presence; however, apply the following protocol to the working relationship:

  • Contact your state association or local dental society to check for a list of endorsed vendors.
  • Provide specific goals and objectives and give examples of expected output.
  • Interview between three and five candidates for the position, and select the most qualified individual or firm. Do not allow cost to be your only criteria for approval.
  • Request to review samples of the company’s or individual’s work.
  • Ask for client references and permission to contact previous customers for feedback.
  • Inquire if the company has ever been notified of any unauthorized or trademarked, copyrighted use of images, statements, etc. and how that company responded to such notices.
  • Require a written agreement.
  • Have an attorney review the contract prior to signing the document.
  • Approve all content prior to publishing the site to the web.

If your current website displays images that could belong to another entity, request written permission from the owner to use the images. If you are unsure how to gain content authorization, contact the website’s original administrator for assistance. Consider removing the images until you are sure you have permission to use them. If a vendor provided the content, request copies of the owner’s permission to use the copyrighted materials. Using photographs and videos of your staff or patients ensures you display original content; however, obtaining written permission from subjects is necessary prior to using the materials.

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