I know, that title sounds like a cruel joke. Those who have been reading this blog for awhile know we sometimes post something fun on Fridays around here, and "copyright infringement," isn't normally a lot of fun to talk about, but hang with me just a moment.
Did you know you can copyright using the word "Friday" 24 times in a song?
Ever since 13 year old Rebecca Black sang a song written for her by a company paid to help teens produce videos (mostly just for fun), and it somehow went viral, there has been no shortage of jokes and spoof songs about Friday being the day after Thursday - right before the weekend. The lyrics are only slightly more enlightening than the old "Mairzy Doats" song, and are not nearly as clever, as there is NO double meaning - the song is literally all about Friday and the where it is placed in the weekly line-up.
But now that there is money involved, this poor girl's parent are fighting with the "record label," (those are finger quotes) over who has the copyright to the song. She didn't write it, but she has the rights to the recording, and the lyrics would be pretty useless without her having recorded it, and the argument goes round and round. The Hollywood reporter has a thorough report on the topic HERE.
So this brings us to the point that relates to us, which is that we, as bloggers, webmasters, and social networkers can seriously never afford to forget how important copyright law is - no matter how silly or insignificant the topic might seem. Unless you're actually re-selling the content (e.g. writing a book, or printing a quote on a T-Shirt to sell), most of what we do on our blogs and websites is usually covered legally under the "fair use" laws. However, proving such in court can be very expensive in a legal battle, so choose your battles wisely. In most cases, it is wise to have a policy to immediate take down (as YouTube has done) any content that is not owned by the webmaster of the policy upon the request of the owner. In all of my years of blogging, I've only had to do this twice (not on this blog). In one case, I had quoted someone who had second thoughts about her employer seeing what she had written elsewhere online, and she was contacting every blog which had reprinted it to try to cover her tracks. In another case, I had used material I believed belonged to a friend, and unwittingly stepped into a flame war between that friend and someone else. In both cases, I was well within my "rights" as a blogger, but the fight simply wasn't worth it, and I immediately took the material down, and confirmed I had done so to the requestor with an apology for the inconvenience. I never heard from either of them again. Had I stood my ground, and insisted on my "rights," the story might have ended quite badly.
The same is the case with YouTube and the Friday video, except in their case, they have deep pockets, and are A LOT more likely to be sued than I ever would be. My guess is that all of this will be resolved and the video will be back up very quickly. As Aaron Moss asked in The Hollywood Reporter link above, "[W]ho would admit to liking this song, let alone owning it?"
Oh, yes, I promised you some Friday Fun, did I not? Here's Team Coco with the song that came before Friday:
Jennifer Pointer (e-mail) is in Tulsa, OK. She promotes a simple, a low-tech approach to effective online profile management, search engine optimization and social networking.
Of course, things can get a little bit complicated from the legal standpoint when you're giving the general public permission to edit the work of an artist, so KoiNUP is using the "Creative Commons," system of giving various types of permission on a photo-by-photo basis. This is a good idea, because it lets each artist (whether the original artist, or the editor, or the re-editor) choose whether others have permission to use their work and/or to modify their work. It also lets the various artists specify whether their work can be used for "commercial" purposes or not.
The system is great for artists, because it gives them a chance to share their work and expose their talent without having to wait weeks and weeks for official "copyrights." It's also great for bloggers and webmasters who need photos, because there's a plethora of free artwork available on these sites, within certain limits.
As we discussed yesterday, we are bloggers, and readers of blogs, and we often find quotes, videos, photos, cartoons, etc., on the web that we would like to share on our own blogs. How do we know what is okay to share, without violating copyright and plagiarism laws? Yesterday, we discussed Fair Use laws. Today, let's talk about some of the "unwritten" rules of conduct that will keep us in the good graces of the blogging community, and hopefully prevent anyone from needing or wanting to resort to legal action.
Cartoons are covered under fair use laws for bloggers. I would recommending not using more than one or two of any artist's cartoons, however, without the express permission of that author, and always give credit by including the web address of the cartoonist, if available. Also, consider searching for free cartoons online, which you are allowed to publish, but always follow the instructions of the host site regarding crediting and posting.
Again, photos and images are general covered under "fair use" laws, but it is important to give credit to the photographer or artist if known. Never "hotlink," (use the photo from the host site), but instead upload the photo to your own site or photo-sharing site.
Most bloggers don't mind if you (accurately) quote them online, as long as you link back to their site. Don't "scrape," (copy and paste the entire post without permission), however. A good rule of thumb is to use no more than 10% of the original post when quoting.
Most videographers and vloggers (video-bloggers) will provide an "embed code," to encourage bloggers and websites to use their videos. This embed code allows the video to remain on the original host site for stats tracking. If the video does not have an embed code, it's best to simply link to the video.
In all cases in which you are using copyrighted material, or using the work of others, look for opportunities to network by linking to the original source of the material. It is better to err on the side of over-attribution then under-attribution. Follow this simple guideline, and you are likely to avoid plagiarism, and stay out of trouble.
Tomorrow, we'll discuss more general blogging etiquette.
Jennifer Pointer (e-mail) is a trainer and tech writer in Tulsa, OK. She promotes a simple, a low-tech approach to effective online profile management, search engine optimization and social networking. Her weakness is the mocha frappuccino.