FSU Faces Fine After Copyright Infringement

On Monday, February 15th, faculty and staff of Frostburg States University received an email warning departments against the use of copyrighted images.

“Unfortunately, the university has been contacted several times by the owners of copyrighted images that have appeared on departmental webpages,” Karen Treber of the University’s General Council said in Monday’s email. “This has resulted in fines that have had to be paid by the department.”

According to the university’s policies on the use of copyrighted images, “If the University receives notice of a copyright violation, the cost of any fine is borne by the department and can amount to hundreds or thousands of dollars.”

The exact denomination of the fine is not known, but it was confirmed by the Department of News and Media Relations that the fine was in the hundreds of dollars, not the thousands. A fine is determined by two factors: who owns the image and the determined value of said image. “The university, the departments don’t have a lot of money to throw away on mistakes,” Liz Medcalf, Director of News and Media Relations, said.

Although the school’s administration was unable to divulge which department made the most recent infraction, Medcalf confirmed that this is not the first time that the university has been fined for copyright infringement. “Take the effort to make sure you know who owns the photo and ask permission to use it,” Medcalf warned.

“There are ways to get images legally,” Medcalf explained, “without stealing them.” This includes sites that provide copyright free images, such as freeimages.com and pixabay.com, both of which were included in Monday’s email, as well as stock photos that can be purchased for a small fee.

Medcalf went on to say that if someone wishes to publish an image that cannot be found on a stock photo website or a copyright free archive, the department should take their own photo. “Pictures are easy to take now-a-days,” Medcalf said, pointing to her cell phone. “We have these little, teeny cameras carried around in our pockets all the time, and they take good pictures.”

Medcalf urged departments and other organizations that publish online content to keep in mind that simply because an image is online and available does not mean that it is free from any copyright laws. Even if the artist is local, permission must be obtained before utilizing an image.

Although copyright has been around since the early 1920s, infractions are more likely to be caught in the modern times. Medcalf explained: “It’s something that I know a lot of people have done, but I do know that companies are being more vigilant about checking for their property. So it is something you might have gotten away with in the past, but people are looking more carefully, and, frankly, the internet makes it easier for people to seek these things out.”

If any departments on campus have questions about the rules of copyright, if an image is copyrighted, or need help purchasing a photo, the staff-wide email encourages those people to contact Ann Townsell, Office of Publications at: atownsell@frostburg.edu or 301.687.7794.

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