Is it ‘Fair Use’? Or Copyright Infringement?

Posted on January 20, 2014 in IP & Social Media

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Last week, I froze in a moment of horror when I saw my very words show up (vitually unattributed, except for the teeny-tiny type at the bottom of the article) on someone else’s blog. After some schnuckling around, I learned that I was not the only person the “perpetrator” had done this to. Ultimately, there’s a happy ending.  I didn’t have to stomp and snort and raise Cain because (as I found out after more schnuckling) the “perpetrator” is a legimitate content partner, with prior permission to use the work.

But let’s say the “perp” didn’t have prior permission. Why isn’t is fair to just use the article and give me attribution?

Under the copyright laws, fair use allows for some degree of use of a portion of a work if it’s in connection with news, reporting, education, commentary and the like. But in my case, the website used virtually the entire “work” (article).  It was just scooped up–without prior permission–and plunked it onto the site. So the amount used isn’t strictly “fair use.”

In addition, many internet sites are not functioning out of the goodness of their hearts–they’re commercial enterprises, which means they’re trying to attract visitors (and ad revenue) to their site using the strength of someone else’s content.  If they are purely educational institutions, there’s leeway given for that. But they’re not (see note about ad revenue), so wholesale copying and pasting of OPIP (other people’s intellectual property) isn’t kosher.

One appropriate way to handle OPIP is to write an original introduction to the subject and then link to the article.  Or pick up a small snippet of the article and delve more deeply into a (original) discussion of the issue.  Or have a conversation with the author of the work (gee, isn’t that what all this social media stuff is about–building community?) and ask for permission.  Prior permission trumps all else.

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