Something clever or original catches our eye while we are reading – and we decide to pass it on. Re-posting something, even on a Facebook®page, can be an unauthorized reproduction of a copyrighted work. The right to a limited protection of the fruits of our creativity is so fundamental that it is guaranteed by our Constitution. This blog is meant to serve as a primer on the rights bundled into Copyright, and how to capture those rights, without inadvertently trespassing on anyone else’s rights. It does not serve to provide legal advice.
Copyright protection actually conveys more than just one right. An author not only has the right to profit from the initial publication or performance of her work, but also has the exclusive right to reproduce her work either in whole or in part, prepare derivative works, distribute copies of the work to the public (by sale, lease, rental or lending) perform the work publicly, display it publicly and perform, display and disseminate the work by digital transmission.
These rights last for the life of the author plus 70 years. For corporate authors (like Disney®) the term is 120 years after creation or 95 years after publication, = A VERY LONG TIME!
The rights are created simply by putting the author’s name and the date of the first publication on the work and the copyright symbol © or the word ‘Copyright’. Of course, some copyrighted works are registered in the Library of Congress which provides additional advantages to the protected works, and registration is always desirable. But registration, if needed, can be secured at a later time.
The Constitution states, in Article 1 Section 8 “Congress shall have Power. . . To Promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times, to Authors and Inventors, the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries. “
In order to be protectable by copyright, a work must be an original work, fixed in any tangible medium of expression. The protection covers the work – whether it is a novel, a poem, a blog, a website, a picture, a photograph, a motion picture, a dramatic work, a dance, sculpture, music, sound recording or architectural work—it does not cover the idea behind it.
We can protect what we call it, how we present or perform it, how we write about it, how we manufacture it, but we cannot protect the idea. Therefore, sometimes it is not easy to establish if the work is an “original work of authorship”. But if it has a “by line” or a signature, or is on someone’s webpage, it probably is someone’s property.
What does this mean to us Bloggers? We have weekly Blogs we want to post – and so many things we find on the Internet are so inspiring – but what can we “block and copy” and what can’t we?
The short answer is the only thing you can block and copy would be something you have permission to copy or something which you pay a fee for the right to copy, or something because of its age or its source (like certain government materials) is unprotectable or already part of the public domain.
There are only a few exceptions to the exclusive right of an author to publish or reproduce a work, meaning that in only a few limited circumstances can a Blogger use a work without the permission of the author. A very limited part of the work can be used in a review of the work, for educational purposes, for reporting it as news, or as the subject of a parody. That means that if you simply like a picture that you find on a webpage, you cannot block and copy it on to your Blog without permission. The line becomes somewhat blurred when you want to use just a few words of a written work, giving credit to the original creator, to make your own commentary or as a springboard for your own reflections on a subject.
If you find something you want to share it with your readers, your best bet would be to seek the permission of the original author. Even if you think you are doing them a favor, garnering them a bigger audience, extending the reach of the article or Blog, you must make sure that the author wants it republished.
Quotes are ok to use, if you credit the author, but again the line gets blurred if the quote is long, or is a republication of a big part of the work. For example, you should not reprint an entire poem, even if it is a short poem in a big book of poetry. The key to successfully commenting on a work would be to reprint as little of the original work as necessary to support your news about the work, or your review.
If you want to comment on an interesting article that you find on the Internet, you can easily provide a link to the original piece rather than reproducing it yourself.
But the simple rule? When in doubt, leave it out!
So – when looking for images to go with your post, use only clip art that is indicated as ‘royalty free” or for which you have paid a license fee .
There is no way to protect an idea with a copyright.
So you CAN use ideas that inspire you and express those ideas in your own words, or with your own photos or drawings. The key is having your work show your own creative element.
And all your own artwork, photographs and original writing that you post? Claim copyright protection in your website by putting the copyright notice after your work, to discourage someone else from putting your words on their blog.
©Jane F. Collen February 13, 2015.