Copyright Issues for Bloggers & Social Media Participants
We all love to share with our fellow Netizens and when we run across something especially poignant, an interesting news article, or a great photograph, we just want to post it so all our friends can revel in it too. We get a sense of belonging and of being seen as a generous and giving person. It would be awful if anyone knew that article, picture or interesting prose was actually stolen from some unsuspecting, starving artist somewhere in the ether. It’s not like we conspired to pilfer someone else’s work. We might even mention their name as the author or artist. But the fact is, taking it without permission is just like swiping that candy bar from the corner store when we were kids. Just like taking anything that doesn’t belong to us, it’s just… well, like stealing.
It may seem such a harsh accusation when we are only talking about a little picture, or an article found while surfing that someone posted for everyone to see. But it took time, talent and sometimes money to produce that and it really does belong to someone else – someone who has the copyright on it. I think it is important to understand the issue of copyright. It would behoove any would-be blogger, social media or forum participant to learn about copyright. It is so misunderstood and I find it incredible that so many Internet mavens believe anything they find on the WWW is theirs for the taking.
Asking permission to use an article or image is not difficult, but it does take a little time. Some people are so anxious to share their unique finds that they just don’t want to take the time to email the copyright owner and ask permission. I have done so many times and find that most requests are not only honored, but responded to very quickly. Being first with the information is not so important to me. I enjoy being able to help my fellow forumites, but not at the expense of my credibility.
Can’t get a reply to your request? Maybe you just need to draw attention to an issue without quoting a whole article. This is what’s known as “fair use” and many times can be accomplished without hard feelings from the copyright owner. Taking these few steps will allow you to provide important information to your readers and at the same time, give credit to the owner and the author (sometimes the owner of the copyright is not always the author):
- Post the article’s title, author and date the article was written.
- Post the website location of the article, including the site name and a link to the website.
- Post an excerpt of the article, which is just a few sentences or a maybe a single paragraph from the article.
- Use the phrase, “read more about this here” or “click here for the full article” and make it a direct link to the article.
- Make additional comments about the article or the topic that makes your post your own instead of just a copy of something from another site.
There will be a few who may object, but I have found that using only small portions of a work and giving proper credit (typing their name just isn’t enough) and linking to them turns you into a credible and responsible reporter of important information.
Pictures and other graphics are another matter. It’s not like you can post just a portion of the image. You can’t even just make the picture smaller or alter it in some small way in your attempt at fair use. But you can describe the talent you have discovered and you can post a link to the picture. Some sites will let you hot-link to an image (using [IMG][/IMG] forum tags or <img src="http://image-address.com/here.jpg" alt="" /> HTML code to display the image in your message directly from the site you found it) and sometimes they will allow you to download the image to your own site and display the image in your message from there. The point is, you must have permission to use an image or any work that doesn’t belong to you and the process is very simple, even if time consuming.
Everyone wants to be helpful – a hero of sorts. Be a humble hero and honor the hard work and the talent that goes into creating the works you admire so much that you want to share them with others.
For more information on copyright, please visit these informative sites:
Author’s Note: This article was originally posted as a reply to a forum post and then converted to an article at The Admin Zone by the webmaster. Had I been asked first, I would have gladly edited the piece to what you see here and given my permission to re-print it. Unfortunately, I wasn’t asked until after they published it.