If I Give Credit, Is It Copyright Infringement?

Posted on May 25, 2018 in IP & Social Media

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I recently gave a teleclass on intellectual property issues for small business owners. One of the questions that came up is whether it’s okay to use someone else’€™s content (in this case, transcribing a podcast and posting it in its entirety) on your own blog as long as you give the proper attribution.

The short answer is no(“What?!?” horrified bloggers exclaim). The general rule is that any time you want to take someone else’s content and use it you need to ask for permission. Why? Because the right to control the distribution of the content is part of the monopoly of copyright rights that one gets for being the creator of the work. In this case, the creator of the podcast has the sole right to make whatever other uses of the work she chooses. She can turn the podcast contents into a CD, a book, a PDF transcript, a workshop. Only the original author can do that.

However, there is a small exception known as “fair use“. It’s the exception that bloggers hang their blogging hats on (and sometimes, their necks, if they’re not careful). Fair Use looks at the reason, context and amount of the content you take.It’s like the big Celebrity Fit Club scales, weighing and balancing different factors. If you take someone else’s content for reasons or news or commentary, the scales tend to tip in your favor; if you take content to sell off in your own products, the scales tip away from you. If you use just a tiny portion of the overall whole content to make your point, that’s more acceptable; if you transcribe the entire podcast and post it for free on your website–probably not kosher.

So play it safe, because a cease and desist letter is a nasty thing to receive in the mail. If you have any doubts about the amount of content you want to use, ask for permission from the authors before you take their content. The best that can happen is that they say yes!

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