Sharing Blog Posts

Monday, October 21, 2013

This is not a legal blog, nor is it aimed at writers (although I do have some writers among my audience). But recently I’ve had several inquiries about using material posted on other blogs, so I thought you might be interested in how the copyright laws apply. That way, if you want to pass on an interesting post, you’ll know what to do.

Blog posts are copyrighted. They don’t require any magic words or even the copyright symbol. Just assume that you need permission to copy them for distribution.

You can provide a link, however. Research papers include a bibliography so that others can find the sources and read them. A link is simply another way of providing source information.

There are three exceptions to the general rule that you need to get permission. While they are too complicated for a blog post, I have included brief summaries. For a more detailed discussion, see my book Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal (KP/PK Publishing 2013), available from Amazon.

  • Titles, names, short phrases, slogans, ideas, and facts cannot be copyrighted.

  • “Fair” uses. The copyright laws protect fair uses, but what uses are fair? Unfortunately, there is no bright-line test. Still, the courts usually find that parody, reviews, news reporting, and research are fair uses as long as the user doesn’t borrow more than is necessary to make his or her point. Reprinting an entire blog post is rarely a fair use.

  • Material in the public domain is not protected by copyright. Works that were published before 1923 are in the public domain. Some later works are, too, but there the rules get trickier. If a blog quotes something you know is in the public domain (e.g., a sonnet by William Shakespeare), you can use the quoted material any way you wish.

If you want to share a blog post and don’t know whether your use falls within an exception, get permission or just provide the link. It’s as simple as that.

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