I’ve been having a lot of trouble with copyright infringement lately. In the past few weeks, I have noticed multiple blogs and sites copying my reviews and stealing my RSS feed. Many are spam blogs, but a disturbing few have been legitimate. As a result, I’ve done some research on copyright infringement and thought I’d share what I’d learned with all of you - hopefully it’s helpful!
I’m hosting this 3-part series along with Jennifer of Literate Housewife, so please hop on over there and see what she has to say. While we are writing on the same subjects, we each have our own take on the topics. Please note that this is not legal advice - this is just the information I have found while searching the internet and consulting a lawyer.
Copyright Infringement FAQ
What exactly is copyright infringement?
Copyright infringement is when someone steals your content without your permission. It can be a book review, a blog post, a picture you took or created, or your custom template (please note that this is a CUSTOM template only - if you paid for your template or designed/modified it yourself. If you got a free template from a website, then it is actually copyrighted by the designer.)
What about an idea I had for a meme, event, challenge? If someone has copied the idea, changed the name, but kept everything else?
Unfortunately, this is not covered by copyright infringement. Unless they copied and pasted the post in which you announced your idea (in which case, you can get the post removed), your best recourse in this case would be an open discussion with the person in question.
What is the most common form of copyright infringement?
Mostly copyright infringement comes through spam blogs. These are blogs that steal the RSS feeds of legitimate blogs and publish them on their own sites.
I found a spam blog that is stealing my RSS feed, but they are only pulling a partial feed. Is this still copyright infringement?
Maybe. It’s difficult to say because there’s no clear line between copyright infringement and fair use. However, if it bothers you, you still can make a legitimate case to get it taken down.
What’s fair use? What does it cover?
Fair use basically says that a limited amount of copyrighted work can be used without fear of punishment. For the specifics of fair use, and the standards that must be considered when determining when something is fair use versus copyright infringement, you can visit the U.S. Copyright Office’s webpage on the issue. Fair use is what protects book bloggers when we use quotations from books in our reviews.
If I want to quote another blogger’s post or review, is that covered by fair use?
Yes, it would be. I always maintain that it’s a good idea to check with someone before using their content, but you could use a short quote without fear of legal repercussions.
What about linking to someone’s post? Is that copyright infringement?
Definitely not - you can link to someone else’s content without any fear of reprisal, as long as you don’t copy it and paste it on your site.
I was looking for an image to make a button or to more aptly illustrate a post (for example, writing a review of a book about the Taj Mahal, and pulling an image to use to make the post look better), so I just looked on Google Images and used it. Is that copyright infringement?
Unfortunately, it probably was. Some images are available for use under the Creative Commons license, but you can’t tell whether that’s the case in Google Images. If you’re looking for a picture to use for a button, I suggest searching public domain databases (easily found through a Google search). For photographs, Flickr is a great resource. In their advanced search, you can search only creative commons licensed images. Once you perform the search (for example, Taj Mahal search results), there will likely be quite a few options to choose from. Once you find one you like (this one), look on the right hand side of the page. About 3/4 of the way down, there will be a “License” section, which, if you click on it, will tell you what you can do with the picture and how you can use it. In this case, the picture says “Some Rights Reserved”, and upon further inspection, it means I can use the picture on my blog as long as I attribute the original owner, and as long as it’s not a commercial use.
I realize this seems much more cumbersome than a quick Google Images search, but imagine how you’d feel if you saw your review on someone else’s website, used to make their post better. Using public domain and creative commons licensed images ensures that there is no content stealing, however inadvertently!
Someone copied my entire post without asking me, but claimed it wasn’t copyright infringement because they credited me and linked to my site. Are they right?
Absolutely not! This is something that has happened multiple times to me, and it is definitely copyright infringement. There are many people who labor under the illusion that it’s okay to use other people’s content as long as they give credit to the original author. This isn’t the case.
That’s it for Part 1. Wednesday, I’ll post Part 2, which will cover how to find infringing posts, and on Friday, Part 3, which will deal with what to do once you’ve found someone stealing your content.