Legal and governmental change are slow, the Web moves at a frantic pace and this is the crux of our problem. U.S. copyright laws have been unable to keep pace with the Internet. U.S. copyright law does not specifically address the publication of works created online. This has led to a confusion as to whether web sourced material is copyrighted or not. This ambiguity leads to a lot of legal gray area. Most people on the Web do not intentionally violate copyright law, they are simply uninformed about the specifics and particulars of it. With so much information being publicly available on the web, many people assume that they have the right to use or reproduce this information, when in fact they may not. Most works on the web are self published by well-meaning individuals however they are operating on their own accord with no legal department behind them to help navigate the ins and outs of copyright law and unwitting infringement. One of the best ways to prevent infringing on copyrighted material is to understand the copyright law and keep this in mind as you create new content. Source materials whenever possible. Push politicians for clearer or more concise guidelines for web content.
Creative Commons is a nonprofit group devoted to copyright issues and the Web. They provide user-friendly copyright licenses that allow the public to use your information under the conditions of your choosing, or in their words, “some rights reserved”. I often use their site when I am trying to determine if my web behavior is up to snuff legally. For more information please visit their site, Creative Commons.