Copyrights & Plagiarism

So one day I’m reading my usual blogs when I’m reminded of something that I should have thought about long before–copyright infringement. I hadn’t been thinking; I took pictures and quotes from anywhere I pleased. What’s worse is that it never occurred to me to ask permission or cite my sources.

But what I was doing wasn’t just copyright infringement, it was plagiarism too.

As a writer I should have known better. As a lot of you know already, plagiarism is using someone else’s work and letting the reader assume it yours. Since I did not use a byline or refer back to the owner, what else was the reader to think. My cheeks still burn with shame.

So when using a caption clearly stating who created the work and linking back to the creator, you are doing the right thing. Don’t forget, you still have to get permission from its creator to use it unless it is licensed otherwise. In the US it is understood the creator is the sole owner of the work and copyright laws apply, no registration required.

There are circumstances when the law says it’s okay to use someone’s work without permission. In Canada it is call Fair Dealing and in the US it is called Fair Use. Your country may call it something else and I’d look it up if I were you.

An example in Canada would be a teacher photocopying a short story to study with a classroom. This is totally legal.

Another is quoting from a website, then reporting the news; commenting, critiquing, or reviewing on a blog. More on this later.

An example in the US is more complicated, because anyone can challenge Fair Use. So, I refer you to Wikipedia for the rules. More US sites are: Blogging and the Law & Fair Use in the US.

Just this summer Canada revisited copyright laws and an amendment was added to help update and clarify those laws. Not long after the amendment was challenged in regards to a photograph posted online. Read here, it ruled against the picture’s owner.

To avoid copyright infringement we have two choices; get permission from the creator of the works or follow the guidelines of Fair Use or Fair Dealing.

To avoid plagiarism; use a byline, link to and/or cite the source.

The government sites: Fair Use or Fair Dealing explain the law. Make sure you understand them. Following it to the letter will not prevent someone from taking action against you. The method is still be challenged on a regular basis.

All bloggers need to watch their backs which brings me to my next subject. When a blogger does a review, are they violating anyone’s rights? Some of us use a picture of the cover, the bio and book blurb from another another website, quotes from the book itself, and sometimes a picture of the author.

Past practice suggests we should be fine. I’ve quoted from Goodreads, Amazon, Smashwords and many different author’s websites. Sure I may be promoting sales, or supporting a fellow author, but I am also using the words & pictures without written permission and giving only the most basic credit.

I’m not a lawyer, so whether I am in the right, wrong or crazy, I am citing my sources and linking back from now on. I think I’m okay under Fair Use/Fair Dealing. But each post is different, so is each case and that makes me vulnerable.

So I offer these suggestions: Comment on the book’s contents and cover. Cite all sources, and link back all photos, and if you can, get written permission.

When blogging on other subjects use your own pictures, buy pictures from places like Veer, or find sources like Wiki Commons. Unless you are the creator of the work give credit where credit is due. And at all costs do not use anyone’s work without written permission unless you are absolutely sure you are covered by Fair Use or Fair Dealing.

I am changing my ways, what about you? Is there anything you’d like to add? Did I miss or misunderstand something that needs to be clarified? Don’t be shy, and shout it out.


14 responses to “Copyrights & Plagiarism

  1. This is a wonderful guest post.I was so used to posting photos along with my posts until about a month or two ago when everything went to hell. Someone had been sued. There’s nothing like that to slap reality into someone’. I dashed back and deleted everyone of the photos on my posts. Now I either take my own, or download from sites like stockfresh. Oh thanks for those other sources πŸ™‚

  2. I get most my stuff from Goodreads and Photobucket, plus some are my own. Since I’ve been doing my blog, I think Goodreads is wide open for us to use, because the authors want us to? Hope I’m not wrong. Photobucket is set up to share, so I think that is okay also?

    Because I do photography, I’ve always tried to be careful. But, nobody’s perfect.

    Thanks for the great post.

  3. It’s always good to be reminded of this stuff, Em. Only recently I’ve realised the error of my ways with photography. I’m extra careful now. πŸ™‚ Great post.

  4. This seems to be a hot topic at the moment. Did you know that when you use a public blog (like Blogspot) that anything you post can be legally used by Blogspot? i.e. they own the site, therefore they own ALL the material on it. This was highlighted at a recent writer’s conference. That’s why some people prefer to blog on their own websites if they are writing about their own work or posting their own original art.

    Also, I just found out that it is illegal to use a celebrity’s name to promote your own website or business. So if one of your characters was used with a celebrity in mine (as one of my main characters is), you can’t quote their name. You could probably use a fictional character like ‘Thor’ or ‘Superman’ but I’m not entirely sure on that! Does anyone know more about that?

  5. I realized this a little while ago too. I am in the process of deleting most of my photos and replacing them with free photos that anyone can use. It’s really scary though. I am trying to be legal all around but you never know unless your a lawyer or something. It get’s a little confusing on what I can use and what I can’t.

  6. Thanks for reminding us of all the rules! It is hard at times to make sure we are doing it all right but worth not having the headaches if we don’t! I usually get photos from online sources like iStockPhoto, pay a few dollars and sleep well at night! I also like to take my own photos when I can! Keep writing!

  7. Great post. I’m bookmarking it for reference. A few things I knew and a few I did not. And thank you for the links. πŸ™‚

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