Looks like it’s time for a back-to-basics primer on copyright infringement, particularly with the holiday season approaching.
Cute cartoons, fun photos, clever poems, and heartwarming stories circulate on social networking sites. Forwards of forwards fill our email boxes.
Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s Eve, and the rest of the winter holiday whirlwind seem to draw an ever-increasing number of re-shared content.
We like what we see, so we pass these gems along.
But are we pick-pocketing the actual content creators when we share their work without permission?
Indeed, we are.
Whether we know it or not, reposting or republishing copyrighted materials is a form of piracy – not unlike unlicensed music or video downloads. And it robs the original authors, artists, or photographers.
Copyright infringement is painful, even if it’s unintentional.
Each week, I discover my own articles, poems, stories, photography, and other published work on a host of websites without my permission. Frequently, items are put up by well-intentioned folks, who simply appreciate what they have read and want to share it.
Occasionally, the trespass is deliberate. Most often, however, I like to believe people simply don't know the laws about intellectual property.
Obviously, as a writer, I count it both encouraging and flattering to learn that folks are actually reading my words. At the same time, I often find myself trying to educate people about copyright rules.
Like most wordsmiths, I don’t wrack (or rack) my brain and pound my computer keyboard for free, even if the creative and original weaving of words brings me joy and personal fulfillment.
Well-meaning copyright infringement just struck another writer.
A kind and ethical friend posted a sweet poem on a Facebook special-interest group page, indicating that the author was unknown. Using a quick Google search on the first stanza, I quickly found the author, who is alive and well and currently writing.
The material is still under copyright, although the rhymed verses appear all over the internet. Poetry sites, social networking communities, and all sorts of blogs carry the lines. It’s unlikely that the poet has granted so many permissions, diluting the search engine rankings of her work with so many appearances of it.
If this poet should choose to create a compilation of her favorite works, potential publishers may frown on the overabundance of previous postings of it. (Often, more than three appearances can be seen as overexposure of previously published work under consideration for inclusion in a new book.)
When is online sharing of copyrighted work acceptable?
It's generally OK to hit “SHARE” on a Facebook page or reTweet a linked Twitter post, as that shares only the introduction and carries the initial link, directing readers to the original work.
It’s perfectly acceptable to post the title first few lines with a hyperlink to the original work online. Usually, anything over 100 words (for prose) is off-limits. Poetry is trickier to call, especially short couplets, limericks, or haikus.
Copying and republishing without the creator’s OK crosses the legal line.
Readers: Please stop before you share.
Go ahead and pass along online links, sending your own followers to writers’ published material. Or ask for permission upfront before copying and putting up work that legally belongs to its creator. Many writers approve this for nominal fees, or even for free, when due credit is given.
But it pays to ask … so the right person is paid.
That’s copyright law in action, and it’s the right thing to do.
From: The Fortune Teller
By Georges de la Tour
Public Domain Artwork