Sunday, April 15, 2012

Copyright 101 for Bloggers-the Basics About What You Can and Can't LEGALLY Post Online

Edie Melson
There is so much information I want to share with you I’m going to divide this up into two posts. The first today, and the second next Monday.

So I’m reprinting the quiz here—with the answers—to get us started. Then I’ll go through the issues question by question, giving you the pertinent information.

True or False:
1.I can legally post any picture on my blog if I link back to the place I got it. FALSE
2.I can legally use a song’s title in a post, article or book. TRUE
3.I can legally use someone’s blog post as long as I give them credit and don’t change anything. FALSE
4.I can legally use music or a song as background for an original video as long as I credit the source. FALSE
5.I can legally post YouTube videos on my blog or website. TRUE
6.If I don’t make money off of it, it’s legal for me to use. FALSE
7.I can legally quote a small percentage of the words to a song in a post, article or book. FALSE
8.If I don’t have a copyright symbol on my work it’s not covered by copyright law. FALSE
9.I can legally download photos from Facebook to use on my own site. TRUE (fooled you!)
10.I can legally pin anything to one of my Pinterest Boards. FALSE
11.I can legally post a picture of a book cover I recommend or am reviewing. TRUE
12.Copyright on written works expires 70 years after it was first published. FALSE

Art, ALL art, is copyrighted

Number One: Pictures—photos, sketches, graphics, any kind—are covered by the same copyright law as our written words.

Unfortunately, there is lots of sharing going on over the Internet and it’s not legal. When we borrow photos without permission, even when we acknowledge where we got it, we are stealing. I truly believe that’s not the intent, but we need to educate ourselves on what’s right and what’s not and then lead by example.

Number Two: Song Titles. Song titles are the ONLY part of a song we may use legally. There is something in the copyright law called fair use. Without boring you by quoting the law, it means that you can refer to part of a work without being sued. Contrary to what some think, there is no set number of words or percentage that makes up fair use. Instead, there are four factors used to define it.

 the purpose and character of your use.
 the nature of the copyrighted work.
 what amount and proportion of the whole work was taken.
 the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Because of the small size of a song, say compared to a book, the courts have decided that quoting ANY portion of a song, except the title is a copyright infringement. The reason you can quote a title? Titles cannot be copyrighted.

Number Three—Blog Posts. You cannot legally borrow someone’s blog post without their permission, even if you give them credit or link back to it. Now, there are some sites that post guidelines for you to follow to be able to use their posts. But this doesn’t mean it’s legal to do so for another site.

Number Four—Music or Songs. I imagine many of you got this one correct. There has been so much written and so many fines leveed in regard to stolen music, it’s almost common knowledge that you cannot borrow a song or music for your own purposes.

Number Five—YouTube Videos. This one was a little tricky. You can legally post YouTube videos on your site, because what you’re doing is linking, not reposting. Even when you embed videos, they are still linked to YouTube.

Number Six—Profit. Whether you profit from borrowing someone else’s work has no bearing on the legality.

Bloggers are a Fault
I have an opinion about all the borrowing that is happening around the Internet. I may be an optimist, but this is my personal opinion.

I think a lot of bloggers are generous a fault. They frequently offer their own work to others for free. With this mindset as a foundation, it doesn’t always occur to them to think of what they’re doing as stealing—they don’t see other’s borrowing as stealing, after all.

That said, I applaud the generosity with our own work. But, we should also be willing to guard the uniqueness and value of the work of others.

Now it’s your turn to weigh in. Do you have any thoughts—or questions—about copyright issues?

Don’t forget to join the conversation!

You can check out Edie's blog at