If you have ever written a blog post, created a marketing flyer, or written an article, you know that writing unique and engaging content is hard work. Sometimes creative inspiration comes instantaneously and other times it involves a substantial amount of frustration, head banging and often, an excessive use of the backspace and delete keys to hammer out that perfect listing description or that gut wrenching, action inspiring blog post.
There is nothing more frustrating than taking the time to develop engaging content and having it stolen. Sadly it happens every day, even in our own awesome forums, from well-intentioned individuals.
Yesterday I found a fantastic article that caught my attention. The writer was engaging, had a valid argument and a perfectly formatted conclusion. I was intrigued to learn more. I read to the end of the post, only to find a link to the real deal – the real article, written on a news organization website by a professional writer.
But the content thief provided a link – that’s attribution, right? Providing Attribution Doesn’t Mean You Can Take It Without Permission
5 Things You Must Know about Begging,
Borrowing and Stealing Online Content
- Copyright protection exists as soon as the work is created- it doesn’t have to be registered with the U.S. Copyright office.
- Just because you can technically copy and paste content doesn’t mean it is legal to do so. Sites like Posterous, Tumblr and WordPress.com allow you to share entire articles written by others but that doesn’t make it legal. It may or may not be. This can be confusing because other sites like the real estate social network Active Rain allow you to “reblog” posts. Why is it acceptable here? Because agents who create content on Active Rain opt-in to having others “ReBlog” their work. In essence, they are giving other users a limited license to share it.
When can you legally use content? There is a principle called Fair Use which basically says that a portion of a copyrighted work can be used for criticism, commentary, teaching, research and news reporting. The principal of Fair Use can be complicated. It takes into account the nature of the copyrighted work, the purpose for its use (commercial vs. non-profit), the amount used in proportion to the copyrighted work as a whole, and the impact on the value of the copyrighted work.
What you need to know about Fair Use – Taking an entire article or blog post written by another individual or an organization without their express permission may violate the author’s copyright.*Best practice: Get permission through either express consent from the copyright owner or through a Creative Commons license.
- Attribution – in other words, citing the owner of the copyrighted work and linking to it- doesn’t justify by itself a copy/paste prior to the attribution. Rather, attribution merely seeks to address the problem of plagiarism (you are giving the original author credit) but it doesn’t resolve the copyright infringement - you still need permission to post the content unless it falls under Fair Use.
- Assume everything is copyrighted unless you are told otherwise, especially on the Internet. The majority of images found on Google are copyrighted- you can’t take them without permission. If you are using images, take the photos yourself, acquire express written permission from the copyright holder, search for creative commons photos on sites like Flickr or CreativeCommons.org, or buy them from a stock photography site such as Getty Images.
- Linking alone is different. Usually, sharing a link to a copyrighted work on Facebook, Twitter, Trulia Voices or other social networks is a-ok because you are sharing the link, not the copyrighted work, assuming that the site on which the content which is linked can be found does not seek to prohibit this kind of linking (which is rare).