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The Do’s and Don’ts of Internet Copyright

copyright sign with padlock on a white backgroundIf an article online is copyrighted can I use part of their work?  What are the rules?  Bloggers as a rule of thumb research for interesting topics by surfing the web.  Information is gathered and quotes borrowed, by what if there is a copyright notice displayed at the bottom of the page?  To many newcomer bloggers this copyright notice is the equivalent of a “do not trespass sign” and in many ways it is.

A copyright is a form of intellectual property that protects the creator’s work from being copied and used without the creator’s permission.  You can not copy another person’s work unless they give you permission to do so.  That being said there is some leeway.

Under the fair use doctrine, bloggers are able to use a limited section of the copyrighted work for the purpose of news reporting, critiquing, commenting, or fact referencing.  Quotes are a great example of work that can be copied without permission from copyright work.  While it is not advisable to quote an entire paragraph, it is perfectly acceptable to quote a line or two to convey your point for your own creative work.

Creators enjoy the right of control over how their work is used, but they do not have control on the idea, thought, or subject matter in which their work relates.  For instance, if I were to write a blog on spear fishing and copyright my work, other bloggers still have the right to blog on the topic of spear fishing.  I only have control over my words, not subject matter. Otherwise the world would be very one sided.

If you wish to copy more than a portion of work from an original creator, always ask permission from creator.  Sometimes bloggers who wish to copy another’s work, will simple create a link back to the original creator’s website.  Many creators will grant permission of these links as it brings traffic to their own websites.  However, if a creator does not wish to grant permission they can simply deny the request to link back to their work.

Whether a newcomer or veteran blogger, it is advisable to brush up on copyright property laws.  Bloggers guilty of plagiarism are looking at fines ranging from $100 up to $50,000.  If unsure whether you are plagiarizing, it is best to check work before publishing.  The U.S. Copyright Office is a great resource for gathering copyright information.  If still unsure, you can also ask an Intellectual Property Attorney who can take the guess work out for you.

Search Widerman Malek


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