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How Copyright Law Impacts iGaming Affiliates

A copyright-free image from the Library of Congress.

Copyright law has always been a bit of a grey area for most web publishers and casino affiliates.
Though few of us would knowingly violate copyright law, most of us regularly skirt the edges of it; whether we know it or not.
The problem with this approach is that lawyers and judges rarely accept, “I didn’t know it wasn’t legal,” as a legitimate legal defense. Worse yet, more and more attorneys are specializing in shaking down publishers who violate copyright laws for quick (but expensive) out-of-court settlements.
To stay ahead of expensive legal troubles, here’s a primer on the basics of U.S. copyright law that every casino affiliate should know.
What is Copyrighted Material?
Copyright is defined by the US Patent Office as:

a form of protection provided by U.S. law to the authors of ‘original works of authorship’ fixed in any tangible medium of expression. The manner and medium of fixation are virtually unlimited. Creative expression may be captured in words, numbers, notes, sounds, pictures, or any other graphic or symbolic media.

The law covers a lot of ground, including just about everything you see on the Internet. Though the law grants copyright owners exclusive rights to their works, there is an exemption web publishers should know about called, fair use.
Fair Use
Fair use allows publishers to use small pieces of copyrighted materials under some pretty limited circumstances including:

  • Criticism
  • Comment
  • News reporting
  • Teaching, scholarship, and research

Though fair use covers a lot of ground, it’s not a license to steal. For example, you can probably get away with using a picture from The Hangover in a review of a Hangover slot machine. Using that same image in a banner ad for your site is just inviting trouble.
The same holds true for direct quotations from other articles. You can use direct quotes from another site or creator in moderation, so long as you acknowledge where they came from. (And linking to that site is not only legal, but it’s pretty good SEO, too.)
Staying Out of Trouble
Casino affiliates often make the mistake of just grabbing images from Google Images without considering who really owns that image. Though most copyright owners start out with a cease and desist notice, but not all of them are that polite.
Keeping ahead of the lawyers is pretty easy if you stick to open sourced and copyright-free images from sites like:

  • Bing Image Search – Check out this great article from on finding copyright-free images on Bing.
  • (or one of the dozens of sites that offer the same service.)
  • US Library of Congress – All the images in the LOC’s massive collection are copyright-free and yours for the taking.
  • Fiverr – If you’re really desperate for a logo or quick and dirty graphics at a low price, this is the place.
  • Public Domain – US law only protects copyrights for 75 years so most (but not all) older images are fair game.

You really don’t need a law degree to stay out of copyright trouble, just a functioning sense of right and wrong. If you have any doubt about whether or not you should be using someone else’s images or text, follow your gut and walk away.
How would you rate your own knowledge of Internet copyright laws? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.