The Rights Stuff

Read all about it, closeout encounters, do you copy?
Magazine Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the September 1998 issue of . Subscribe »

While designing a Web site for your bed-and-breakfast inn, you find a poem in a book that perfectly describes your Victorian home. Can you use it on your site? Or maybe you've seen a picture on another site you'd like to copy and use on yours. Can you? Of course--if you get permission from the copyright owner and pay a fee, if he or she charges one.

Copyrights, which protect authors' original works (considered "intellectual property"), can cover a wide range of endeavors, including recorded music, artwork, writing and Web sites. Copyright ownership takes effect as soon as the work is placed into fixed form, and only the author or those with permission from the author can publish or distribute the copyrighted work.

"[Although] it's intellectual instead of tangible property, copyright still constitutes property rights," says Page Miller, senior copyright information specialist with the U.S. Copyright Office in Washington, DC. "It's like owning a house: Somebody can't just use your house without your permission."

How do you find out if something is copyrighted? "If something is fairly recent, [you can be sure] it's copyrighted," says Miller. Otherwise, you can search the office's records in Washington, DC, yourself or request in writing that the office do so for a fee of $20 per hour.

If you'd like to use copyrighted material on your Web site, all you have to do is ask. For printed material, contact the author through the publisher. For material you find on a Web site, e-mail a request.

Once your Web site is published, you'll be a copyright owner, too. You don't need to register your site for copyright protection or display the copyright symbol on your home page, but doing so makes it easier to fight back if someone else uses your work without permission. For copyright application forms and other information, visit the U.S. Copyright Office's Web site at or call (202) 707-3000.

Donna Chambers is a freelance business writer and small-business owner. She can be reached at

Owner's Manual

Do you sometimes feel like hitting your computer? You're not alone. "Small-business owners are frustrated by their PCs," says Linda Keefe. Fortunately, Keefe has a solution: her Tech Talk newsletter.

Tech Talk covers everything you need to know about using hardware, software and the Internet. Each issue is reviewed twice--once by a technical board for accuracy and again by a nontechnical board to make sure the information can be understood easily.

Publisher Keefe and her partners, managing editor Judy Dir and research editor Louis Hohman, know how their readers feel: Tech Talk is the result of the frustration they felt in 1995 when computerizing their Fairport, New York, communications company, Shared Results Inc.

Keefe says they aim to give small-business owners a better experience than the partners had. "We want our readers to be armed with broad-based knowledge and vocabulary, so when they encounter problems, [they can deal with] them," she says.

Tech Talk is published 10 times per year; an introductory one-year subscription costs $67. To request a sample copy, call (888) 689-8077 or e-mail

Screen Savers

Want to save a few hundred dollars on your next computer? Consider a closeout model. As computer manufacturers release newer models, they discontinue older ones. To free up inventory space, computer retailers often put closeout computers on sale. For example, Circuit City sold the Compaq Presario 2200 for more than $300 off its original price when that model was closed out.

A closeout model isn't a bad deal. You'll get a new, name-brand machine that, even though it's being discontinued, isn't out of date. And you can always upgrade later.

On the downside, you may not be able to choose the brand you want, closeout computers may not always be available, and the search for one can be time-consuming.

Ask computer stores in your area about special closeout deals. You may need to keep checking back until something becomes available. As always, before you buy, make sure the computer and any preloaded software meet your needs.


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