Online Copyright: Best Practices for Content Creators on eCommerce Sites

Dec 29, 2023
Alice Pham

In today's digital landscape, content creation is not just an artistic endeavor but also a venture that demands legal savvy. The ease of sharing and accessing content online has made it imperative for creators to understand the nuances of copyright law. This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of best practices in copyright management, ensuring that creators can protect their intellectual property while navigating the eCommerce world effectively.

The digital age has democratized content creation, enabling anyone with a smartphone or computer to become a creator. However, this ease of access also brings challenges, particularly in protecting one's work from unauthorized use or infringement. Understanding and applying copyright principles is essential for creators who wish to maintain control over their work and reap the benefits of their creativity.

Understanding Copyright Law

The Basics of Copyright

Copyright is a legal principle that gives creators sole ownership of their original works. This protection is automatically applied as soon as a work is created and fixed in a tangible form, including literature, music, art, software and other types of digital products. The key aspect of copyright is that it allows the creator to control how their work is used, distributed, and modified.

In addition to providing control over the use of a work, copyright also enables creators to monetize their creations through licensing and sales. This legal protection is designed not only to reward creativity but also to encourage the production of more creative works, contributing to cultural richness and diversity.

Copyright in Different Jurisdictions

According to Michael Hurwitz, CEO of  Careers in Government, while the basic premise of copyright is consistent worldwide, its application can vary significantly across different countries. This variation can be seen in aspects such as the duration of protection, the rights granted, and the procedures for enforcement. For instance, some countries require formal registration for full legal protection, while others do not. Creators who distribute their work internationally must be aware of these differences.

For example, a work that is in the public domain in one country might still be under copyright in another. Navigating these international waters requires a good understanding of global copyright laws, treaties, and agreements, such as the Berne Convention, which standardizes certain aspects of copyright law across its member countries.

Protecting Your Work

Registering Your Copyright

“Copyright protection is automatic, formal registration provides legal advantages, particularly in the United States. Registered works are easier to defend in court, and in some cases, registration is necessary to bring a lawsuit for infringement. The process of registration varies by country but generally involves submitting an application, a copy of the work, and a fee.

Registration not only solidifies legal standing but also serves as a public record of ownership.” Says Stefan Kroesbergen, Founder and CEO of Getsby.

This can be particularly important in disputes over ownership or originality. In successful infringement litigation, registration can also result in the award of statutory damages and legal fees in several jurisdictions.

Utilizing Digital Tools for Protection

“In the digital realm, protecting your work proactively is key. Watermarking images and videos, embedding metadata, and using digital rights management (DRM) systems are effective ways to deter unauthorized use and track distribution. These tools can help prove ownership and control how your work is used online.” Says Henry Allen, Digital Marketing Manager at Loyalty Lion.

Moreover, there are online services that can monitor the web for copies of your work and alert you to potential infringements. These tools use advanced algorithms to scan the internet and identify unauthorized uses of text, images, music, and video content. By leveraging these tools, creators can take swift action to address infringement, ensuring their rights are continuously protected.

Dealing with Infringement

Identifying Infringement

“In the digital age, vigilance is key to identifying copyright infringement. Creators should regularly monitor their work's online presence using tools like Google Alerts, reverse image searches, and specialized content tracking software. These tools can alert creators to unauthorized uses of their work, allowing for timely action.” Says Peter Capp, CEO of Sodick.

When identifying potential infringement, it's important to assess whether the use falls under 'fair use' or is a clear violation. Understanding the nuances of fair use allowing limited use of copyrighted material without permission for purposes like education, news reporting, or parody, is crucial in making this determination.

Responding to Infringement

Once infringement is identified, the response can range from informal resolution to legal action. The first step is often a cease-and-desist letter, a formal request to stop unauthorized use. If this doesn't resolve the issue, the next step might be filing a DMCA takedown notice, especially for online content.

In cases where informal efforts fail, legal action may be necessary after careful consideration and consultation with a legal expert. Litigation can be costly and time-consuming, but in some cases, it's essential to protect your rights and deter future infringements.

Monetizing Your Work

Licensing and Royalties

“One of the most effective ways to monetize creative work is through licensing. Licensing agreements allow others to use your work in exchange for payment. Such agreements can be exclusive or non-exclusive and typically specify how, where, and for how long the work can be used.” Says Chase Hughes, Founder of ProAI.

Understanding and negotiating the terms of licensing agreements is crucial. Royalties, or payments made for the ongoing use of your work, are a common form of compensation in these agreements. The terms of royalty payments, such as percentage rates and payment schedules, should be clearly defined and agreed upon.

Navigating Online Platforms

“Online platforms can be powerful tools for distributing and monetizing content. However, it's important to understand the terms of service of these platforms, as they can significantly impact your rights and revenue. Some platforms take a larger share of revenue or impose strict controls on how content is used.” Says Sumeet Johar Lal, founder of Yogic Experience.

Staying informed about changes in platform policies and exploring multiple platforms for content distribution can maximize revenue and reduce dependency on any single channel. Additionally, direct sales through personal websites or online marketplaces can offer more control and higher profit margins.

Ethical Considerations and Fair Use

Understanding Fair Use

In copyright law, fair use is a key notion. It allows limited use of copyrighted material under specific conditions. This doctrine balances the rights of the copyright holder with the public's interest in accessing and using creative works. Fair use considerations include the purpose of the use, the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount used, and the effect on the market value of the work.

According to Cary Subel, CEO of SafeSleeve, content creators of eCommerce sites should be aware of fair use to understand when others may legally use their work and to avoid infringing on the rights of others. While fair use can be a gray area, a basic understanding is essential for making informed decisions about both using and protecting creative content.

Respecting Others’ Copyrights

Just as you seek to protect your own copyright, it's important to respect the rights of other creators. This means obtaining permission when required, providing appropriate attribution, and adhering to the terms of any licensing agreements. Respecting copyright not only avoids legal issues, but also boosts a culture of mutual respect and collaboration in the creative community.


Navigating the complexities of online copyright requires a blend of vigilance, knowledge, and strategic action. By understanding your rights, utilizing the right tools, and engaging ethically in the digital space, you can protect your creative works and thrive in the ever-evolving world of content creation.