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.
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.