Monday, March 23, 2015

Learn What You Can Legally Post & Share Online—Copyright 101

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

Lately, I’ve seen a lot of discussion about copyright issues. Specifically, what is legal to use on a blog, social media or in a book. 

First, I want to state right up front that I am NOT a lawyer and none of what I’ve said constitutes any kind of legal advice. All I’m trying to do is share what I've learned about how to be responsible online. 

That said, at the end of this post I’m going to give you some links to the places where I found my information so you can go check out the specifics for yourself.

Copyright Myths—How Familiar are you with the Law?

1. I can legally post any picture on my blog if I link back to the place I got it. This isn’t even remotely true. 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 (and quote songs) 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. 

2. I cannot legally use a song’s title in a post, article or book. 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.
3. I can legally use someone’s blog post as long as I give them credit and don’t change anything. 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.

4. I can legally use music or a song as background for an original video as long as I credit the source. 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.

5. I can’t legally post YouTube videos on my blog or website. 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.

6. If I don’t make money off of it, it’s legal for me to use. Whether you profit from borrowing someone else’s work has no bearing on the legality. 

7. I can legally quote a small percentage of the words to a song in a post, article or book. We are all used to being able to quote passages from books and not get into any kind of copyright infringement. I am here to tell you, that is NOT the case with a song. The only part of a song you may quote is the title. 

If you’ve seen songs quoted in published books either someone paid a use fee or the author wrote the song himself. I’ve known of two authors who self-published books and had to pull the books because of songs quoted without permission.

8. If I don’t have a copyright symbol on my work it’s not covered by copyright law. Copyright symbols are visual REMINDERS that what you’re reading belongs to someone. Just because there isn’t one doesn’t affect the status of what you see in print or online. If someone wrote it, it’s copyrighted. 

SPECIAL NOTE: You do not have to apply for a copyright for your work...EVER. You can register your copyright, but it’s expensive and cumbersome to do. And it’s rarely necessary.

9. Fair Use means I can quote 200 words of a work without getting into copyright infringement. Not true. There is no definitive number of words that can be used under the fair use portion of the copyright law. The law is written vaguely on purpose, because the infringement depends on so many things, including but not limited to, the length of the original work and the portion of the passage quoted.

10. I can legally pin anything to one of my Pinterest Boards. I don’t know about you, but I LOVE Pinterest! I guess I’m just a visual kind of girl. But there are a lot of folks getting into trouble on Pinterest right now. We have to follow ALL the copyright rules when we’re pinning, just like when we’re posting on our blogs. And, if you violate a copyright with one of your Pinterest boards you, and you ONLY, are liable for any fines or charges. You agreed to this when you opened your Pinterest account and accepted their terms of use. If you want to read them again, here is the direct link: http://pinterest.com/about/terms/

But there is one slight loophole. If someone or some business has a Pinterest button on their website, you can assume they want their stuff to be pinned and you should be okay.

11. I can legally post a picture of a book cover I recommend or am reviewing. This is an instance of Fair Use. As long as you’re not saying the book in question is written by you (if it’s not) you can legally post a review and use the cover.

12. Copyright on written works expires 70 years after it was first published. A lot of folks have heard that copyrights expire after 70 years. In some cases that’s true...but not all. There are some instances when copyright expires 70 years after the author/creators death. There are also times when copyrights are renewed. Beyond that, there are other exceptions, so while the 70 year rule is a good place to start—it’s not the place to end. 

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 folks...to 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, feel free to use the comments section to let me clarify any thing that wasn’t clear or anything I didn’t cover.

Don’t forget to join the Conversation!
Blessings,
Edie

TWEETABLES


Resources (thought I’d forgotten, didn’t you!)
Good explanations of copyright




Public Domain Info

YouTube Info:

36 comments:

  1. Edie, Thanks for this helpful information. You have answered several of my questions. Enjoying your blog.

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    1. Penelope, I'm glad I could help. Thanks so much for taking time to comment! Blessings E

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  2. Good to know this, Edie. I've seen the song lyric question posed many times - people thinking they could use part of the song. I went to a workshop several years ago with Dennis Hensley and he cautioned us to never use the words of a song without permission. Some songwriters have successfully sued and won over copyright infringement.

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    1. Joan, it's not just the songwriters themselves. Often the copyright is owned by a (music) publishing company. Thanks for stopping by, Blessings, E

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  3. Great information. Thank you so much. I use "free" pictures on my blog. This still scares me. If I get a picture from a site that declares that the pictures are free, are there still loopholes for legal ramifications?

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    1. Cherrilynn, you need to make sure what 'free' means. This means checking the Creative license. A lot of free sites require attribution, or are only free for certain uses (usually a small version of the image to be used online - but not always). I always and ONLY use Pixabay.com because of the ease of license. I can use any image, anyway, without attribution. Great question, thanks, E

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    2. I'm reading this June 2017. Do you still recommend Pixabay?

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    3. Wendy, absolutely! I love www.pixabay.com. There's now a sister site that's also good, www.pexels.com

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  4. Thank you for this good information, Edie. So appreciated. Do you know where one would go for permissions? I don't have a clue. Also I've seen people take a song they like and put their own pictures to it. I gather this is not okay? Maybe they have permission and I don't know. I also see fans of celebs making their own videos with clips of an actor's work. This too would require permission?

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    1. Kim as far as where to go for permissions for images, that's tough if you just do a search for a specific image on a search engine. Sometimes you can right click on the image and get more information. My hard and fast rule - if the permission isn't listed, I assume it's ILLEGAL for me to use. That's why I only use specific sites to get my images from. My favorite is www.Pixabay.com right now.

      As far as using a song as a background to their own pictures, no this is not okay, unless they have permission. If it's something that's just done for family and a few friends and won't get shared on the internet, they may be okay because that is just for private use.

      Finally fan videos. Technically this is illegal, but I see a lot of folks getting away with it. I assume it's because it's good advertising. Not sure, but there have been crack-downs. For instance, on YouTube, that kind of video is very often taken down because of copyright infringement.

      All good questions, Thanks, E

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  5. Edie, thanks so much for clearing the muddy waters that surround all of our sharing, using, reposting, etc. I've had my writing show up in multiple places w/out my permission. As you suggested in your current ACFW class on social media, I Googled myself and was surprised to find a church in Australia copy/pasted one of my Christmas blog posts into their newsletter. They gave my by-line, but never asked permission. After the initial shock, I realized God was the one who gave me the words and he was the one who got those words to more people than I could through that church copying them. It's a tough call sometimes.

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    1. Sandy, it is a tough call when you see your words used without permission. But I'm like you. I believe they're really God's words and He decides where they go. I've also learned lately that He's good at battling for my rights when they're infringed upon! Thanks for sharing your experience, Blessings, E

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  6. Thanks Edie. This is a case where we often don't even know the questions to ask, much less who to ask. So now we can go to the Great Swami, Edie.
    Thanks for all the research.

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    1. Tim, you crack me up! Thanks for stopping by, Blessings, E

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  7. Good information to know. Thanks for sharing it.

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    1. Ann, thank you for taking time to drop in and chat! Blessings, E

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  8. Thanks for this post Edie. I had heard horror stories of people being sued because of Pics they posted on Pinterest and tried to avoid joining. My new publisher really wanted me there, so I took the plunge.
    My question is this, if I am only reposting pics others have on their walls, am I safe? How do I know what is and isn't okay to repost?

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    1. Kimberly, you're mostly safe. I know, not much consolation. To clarify, I haven't hear of anyone being sued, only billed for the use of the picture. That bill has run into several thousand dollars at times, but at least it's not in the court system.

      Truthfully you have to be careful. I always click on the image to find out where it's from. If I can't figure that out, or if the image has been altered, I usually move on to something else. Once I clicked on the picture of a woman, thinking she'd be a good fit for a character and found out it was only a portion of a picture from...a porn site! That has made me very wary of what I post. Thanks for stopping by, Blessings, E

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  9. I've needed to know the answers to these question many times. I should have know you'd have the answers. Appreciate your sharing with us who are not in the know. I was a pleasure chatting with you this past weekend. I look forward to seeing you again.

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    1. Sharon, I loved chatting with you too! I'm glad I'm able to help, Blessings, E

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    1. Linda, thank for stopping by! Blessings, E

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  11. Thank you for this valuable information. Art especially is tricky. Here's another, though. My upcoming book is fiction, based on the Bible. To the best of my ability I want it to be accurate. The NIV version and several others post a copyright notice. Can I get in trouble for using those words?
    Pat W. Kirk

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    1. Pat, you'll need to go on the publisher's website for the Bible version you're using and find the correct way to attribute the use. But it's not a problem for you to use them. Blessings, E

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  12. Edie, thanks for sharing this info. I've spoken to groups about the proper use of free images, so I'm glad to see you cover that and then some. It's so tough to know all of the ins and outs, and, as you said, most people aren't trying to violate a law, they just don't realize. I, also, like to use freedigitalphotos.net for royalty-free photos, but they do require an attribution and, in some cases, limit the use.

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    1. Barbara, I'm glad to know you're speaking about this issue! Freedigitalphotos.net is a good place to find images, but I prefer to use a site where all the rules are the same. Blessings, E

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  13. What about all the memes that float around on Facebook? People share these all the time, and I've never been sure where the images and statements come from.

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    1. It's always legal to quote someone, so no problem there. As far as the images, you just have to use your own judgment. I don't worry about them too much. If there's a problem they're going to come after the person who originated the meme, no the people who shared it. But it's a GREAT question! Thanks for stopping by, Blessings, E

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  14. Awesome post, Edie. Thanks for sharing all of that valuable information.

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    1. Darlene, I'm glad you found it helpful. Thank you for dropping by! Blessings, E

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  15. This is all great information. Thank you.
    What about quotes? As long as we are siting the author, do we need to get permission to include the quote in a book or a speech? What about compiling a variety of quotes from different people? Deceased people? Famous people? Just trying to keep everything above board.
    Thanks.
    Dell

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    1. Dell, quotes are fine, just keep them to a few sentences at the most. And it doesn't matter how many quotes you use. Living, deceased, it's all good. Great questions! Blessings, E

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  16. Great post! I'm a photographer and I really appreciate your post about this topic. I do have a question for you about quoting song lyrics. Are there any exceptions to this rule? What about old songs that are now public domain? I work at a church and I know that we don't have to get a license to use songs/lyrics that are public domain. Does this apply to quoting them in books as well or do I still need to try to get permission to quote the two old hymns I want to quote in my book? Thanks!

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    1. Josie, definitely if the song is in public domain you may quote it. The same rules apply in publishing as in what you follow at church. Good question, sorry I wasn't clear about that. Blessings, E

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    2. Oh Edie, you don't know how happy you've just made me! Bless you :-) I look forward to meeting you at the Blue Ridge Writer's Conference in a couple of weeks. It will be my first time attending!

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  17. Great article, thank you for writing!

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