Don’t Make These Mistakes When Re-posting

By:  Kristine Mize

What a difference twenty years makes!  When I was in high school and wrote a book report or a history paper, I was required to report every source and every quote in a good old fashioned footnote.  Now, with the internet, nearly everything seems like public domain and information can be tracked down in a split second without the use of a card catalog.  Plagiarism, that big ugly word our English teachers used to scare us, is much easier to track and can be punishable by law.  With the internet’s various search engines, we can type in a phrase and quickly track it to its original source with the flick of the wrist.

So how do you convey someone else’s idea, intellectual property, or creative genius properly?  *The United States Copyright Office, in relation to copyright infringement, has stated, “As a general matter, copyright infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner.” Fair use is a term often thrown around but is not clearly defined.  There is no set number of words or lines that can be used without permission, but certain permissions are given to educators and the media as long as credit is specified.  But full or large bodies of work should never be reproduced or distributed without express permission, even if a copyright is not prominently displayed.  If items are considered public domain, those works can be shared without penalty but most of these works were created before copyright laws were put into place. **Copyrights can expire after a long time, putting something into the public domain, and there are some fine points on this issue regarding older copyright law versions. However, none of this applies to material from the modern era, such as net postings.

Better to be safe than sorry.  If you found something fabulous on the internet to share on your favorite forum, in your blog, or to all your clients on Facebook, make reference to it, use a quote to grab the reader’s attention (but give credit to the source), and then copy the URL.  If your readers are interested, they can click on the URL themselves and go straight to the source.  In some cases, you may find something interesting on a site or forum that is private or subscription based.  This is a great indicator that you should receive permission in writing before sharing.  Most of the time, your readers will be more interested in your opinion on the matter rather than you regurgitating someone else’s original work.

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