As bloggers, and readers of blogs, 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? We're going to talk about that this week. Today, let's start with the blogger's best legal friend: Fair Use.
Fair Use Law basically allows you as a blogger to use copyrighted material on your blog as long as you are not re-selling the material, and as long as you are using material strictly for informational or educational purposes. For example, it is okay to quote from another blogger (without first obtaining perission) to either critique the information in that blog post or to use it to help make a point. It is not okay for you to take a quote from another blogger, stick it on a T-Shirt and sell it, without that blogger's express permission. Here are the four instances which the U.S. Copyright Office lists as "fair use":
- The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
- The nature of the copyrighted work
- The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
- The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work
Keep in mind that this "Fair Use," law will not keep you from getting sued. It will just help you in case you do get sued, but this process might still be very expensive, in terms of attorney fees. We are going to talk more this week about blogger etiquette that can help prevent you from making other bloggers and webmasters angry enough to consider taking legal action. For starters, however, in regard to "fair use," I recommend using a "Fair Use Disclaimer" somewhere on your site, and making it clear that you will gladly remove any copyrighted material at the request of the copyright owner. Just because you have (probably) have a legal right to use something on your website does not mean it's always a good idea to do so.
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.