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.
So, what is "OK" to copy?
A couple of months ago, in a post on where to find good blog content, I mentioned public domain. The Library of Congress and Wikimedia Commons are examples of "public domain" (not copyrighted) photos and documents.
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.