It's Easy to Do the Wrong Thing: Copyright and Intellectual Property

It’s Easy to Do the Wrong Thing: Copyright and Intellectual Property
Jena Fuller @creative commons flikr.com
Who knew that Inspiring Generosity was potentially committing a crime last week? Well folks, I’m here to say that I am still free as a bird (yippee!) but I have been reminded about the very serious world of intellectual property and copyright law. If you recall, lo those seven days ago, I committed two sins:
1.  I used specific terminology in a public forum to describe an international athletic event.
2.  I used a photographic image of five colored rings to illustrate the same athletic-event-that- shall-not-be-named.
Little did I know that this was verboten until our organization’s trusty social media person pointed it out. Nyet, nada, no way was it getting posted on Facebook in the version I sent her – the very one that had been emailed to you, my trusted readers (does that make you accessories?). See how I had to reword the post in its newly re-named state: “The Couch Event and Tithing Edition.”
Let me be clear. We all need to be aware of infringing on someone else’s intellectual property. In particular, I have been convicted (as in the Jesus-y kind of convicting) that freely using other people’s photographs and images without their permission is just plain wrong. When we do it, we are stealing from someone’s livelihood. Admittedly, it’s tempting to do because it’s just so dang easy. And, truth be told, you will rarely get called out or busted – unless you have the gall to use the poem “The Dash.” Don’t use “The Dash.”
Many companies have spent millions of dollars for the right to exclusively use certain words and images for the athletic-event-that-shall-not-be-named. In my naiveté (which does not excuse me from knowing), I thought these words and images were so well known that they belonged to everyone. Not so.
Here are two articles to keep you informed. Churches: Be Careful Using Olympic Trademarks and How Not to Get Sued Tweeting About the Olympics. Honest to goodness, you – including all you church and nonprofit people – are banned from using these words without permission in print (and this is by no means an exhaustive list): Olympics, Olympian, Team USA, Go for the Gold, Rio 2016, etc., etc. etc.– at least through August 24 when the event is over.
So what’s a nice person to do who wants steer clear of the (copyright infringement) law?
Don’t use photos or images without the express permission of the artist. Check out these two websites for free use – though admittedly I got last week’s image from one of those sites: flickr.com (The Commons) and pixabay.com/
Think. Which is what I did not do last week. I should have known that using the rings might have been questionable (simply because I had seen this Stephen Colbert piece earlier). If you have a vague intuition that the image might belong to someone, check it out. I will say, in my defense, not being able to use certain words to describe the athletic-event-that-shall-not-be-named is highly ridiculous. But that’s just my opinion.
When in doubt, ask or assume you cannot use a particular image. I was lucky enough to have someone who could point out, very nicely, the error of my ways. Because something is on the Internet does not mean that it’s necessarily OK to use.
So let my unintentional gaffe be a way for you to learn. The necessity of protecting other people’s intellectual property is a real issue. Here’s to a fresh, clean slate. I shall never, ever use the ring image or certain words to describe the athletic-event-that shall-not-be-named as a focus of a public article. I’ll do my very best to stay on this side of the law and I hope you will too.
P.S. Here’s an enduring and beautiful story of faith and spirit from the event that happened this week.
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past decade, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over $2.5 million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. She is perfecting her pike moves in diving and gymnastics. She’ll be ready in four more years. She is a Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader. Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation; she is available to consult with churches in Oregon and Idaho. You can reach her at inspiringgenerosity@gmail.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/inspiringgenerosity.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.