How To Use Content From Other Blogs Without Violating Copyright

by Jason Keath on Jul 11, 2011
Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. This post is not intended as legal advise. If you have real concerns that you MIGHT be violating someone’s copyright, do not use it. Or ask permission first.

book with copyright symbol on it

Sharing quotes, facts, and images from other blogs is something many content creators do instinctively, without thinking about whether they are doing anything wrong. The open social web encourages this free sharing.

The importance of copyright online is ever increasing. And if you are blogging as a business, it is even more important. Getting caught up in copyright infringement suits is not going to do wonders for your bottom line.

If you find yourself wanting to pull a quotation from another website or blog, use one of their photos, or re-publish an entire blog post, here are a few rules of the road to guide you down the path of content curation copyright.

Fair Use Allows You to Use The Content Of Others If…

If you copy another person’s original work, in writing or photography, you must pass the Fair Use test. Fair Use allows you to use another person’s work for the purpose of education, commentary or criticism. In a copyright lawsuit, to determine if the copied work was fair use, 4 items must be considered:

  1. Purpose and character of the use (commercial vs. nonprofit/educational)
    Was your writing or image an original work or a full copy?
    Is your website for profit as a business or personal? 

  2. Nature of the copyrighted work
    Is the original work a news story based on fact or is it theory, opinion, original thought?
    Could the quoted work have been recreated with research on your own?
    The closer the original work is to facts the more likely that fair use applies. Opinion however makes the work more original and more likely that you are in the wrong.

  3. Amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to entire original work
    Did you copy ALL of the work?
    Did you copy MOST of the work?
    The more you use, the more likely you are in the wrong. What is the right length? Many will say a couple paragraphs is fine. The AP specifically asks bloggers to pay for quotations more than 4 words. That is the extreme. The best rule of thumb here, as with most of copyright, is if you are unsure, just ask the copyright holder for permission.

  4. Effect on the potential market/value of the copyrighted work
    Are you producing a competing product by copying an original work?
    Is there still a good reason for someone to go look at the original work?
    Are you using an image that you would normally have to pay for?
    If you are costing someone else money that they would normally receive, you are typically in the wrong.

These 4 points should not be considered independently, but holistically. The is no exact equation of what constitutes fair use but these are guides that, when considered together, will guide your decision.

The Common Sense Approach to Copyright

Always Ask First — Most bloggers, photographers, and content creators online are pretty accessible these days. And if one isn’t, there are likely 10 others with similar media that are. Asking for permission can also potentially help you. If the author of a quote or the photographer of an image knows you are using something, they may point people toward your blog post.

Quoting News and People — If you are pulling a one or two sentence quote for context in a blog post where you are giving opinion, you are usually in the clear, especially if you are linking to the original text for credit. However, to repeat, if unsure, always ask first.

Creative Commons — Many content creators, especially photographers and image websites, are starting to use creative commons. Creative Commons is a service that helps define and provide licenses for content creators to define how and if their original work can be shared. Look for creative commons licenses on Flickr, in Google Image Search, and in the footer of more and more blogs (examples here).

Mashable does not have Creative Commons listed but includes a simple directive their footer “Reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited. All Rights Reserved.”

Always Link — If you feel you are in the clear or you have direct permission, it is always the default to give credit and link back to the original author/content owner. This gives them value and many times alerts them to the use. It is also just good manors.

Are You Helping Them? — Ask this question before contacting a site about republishing their work. If you want to republish a blog post, one important question to ask is if you would be helping that blogger gain exposure more than they would be helping you with free content. Republishing TechCrunch on your personal blog for interest would do very little to nothing for TechCrunch. But if TechCrunch wanted to republish something from your personal blog, it would be a big bonus of traffic and attention to you. Consider the value equation.

Curation Has It’s Limits — A weekly wrap up blog post where you summarize and link to other strong articles around the web is great. Even a wrap up of quotes or excerpts from some of your favorite blogs can be pretty acceptable as long as you provide links. Once your excerpts get so long that your reader does not need to click through to the original work, you have crossed a line.

Photos Are Dicey — You most likely are not using a small part of someone’s image or photo like you do with text excerpts. If copying photos it usually means you are using the entire original work. Because of this you are more than likely violating copyright when taking an image from the web and using it on your blog without permission.

There are also several services and bureaus built for paying to use photos, so proving that you are costing someone else money becomes pretty easy.

Here are the best options you have for using photos that will not get you into copyright trouble:

  • Use the creative commons search functions on Google Image Search and Flickr search
  • Use your own original images
  • Buy images through a service like Shutterstock.com or iStock.com
  • Ask for direct permission from the photographer

Post Author

CEO and founder of Social Fresh, the social media education company. Jason is a social media consultant, a social media speaker and industry analyst. He consults with corporations and agencies on social media strategy, building community, and influencer...

  • http://www.blogctech.com CommuniTech

    Great post, copyright laws can be so confusing. This helped to clear some things up!

  • http://www.robinsellers.com Robin

     I’m a curator for Scoop.it and I shared your blog post on my Scoop.it Best Blogging Tips at http://www.scoop.it/t/best-blogging-tips/. So, how does this fit into the equation?

  • http://twitter.com/onenetmarketing One Net Marketing

    Awesome post – I would add “avoid dupe content” to the common sense list above. Google is treating dupe content harsher than ever and de-ranking and even de-listing sites that provide little or no unique content of their own.  So, if you do use other blog content on your site make sure you write more content than you borrow or implement the Robots meta tag and/or
    robots.txt.

  • Jes

    Don’t assume everyone’s in the same place as you – Fair Use only applies in the US.  Also ‘… just good manors’??  Good stately homes you mean?

  • http://www.blueplanetinternet.co.uk Mark Vaesen

    Great post, Jason – thanks.  Some clients still believe that you’ll “probably get away with it” and don’t take the issue of copyright on the web seriously enough.  Believe me, you’ll get caught, and you’ll seriously regret it.

  • Pingback: Group Link Post 07/13/2011 | KJsDiigoBookmarks

  • http://www.internetbillboards.net Tom George

    Hi Jason,
    Excellent piece of work here. I am the CEO of Internet Billboards, a fast growing community of content curators. I Curated your work that was originally curated by one of the best Robin, who also commented on your blog http://bit.ly/oUooUe  what is your opinion on this can you please leave your thoughts as a comment possibly as well on Internet Billboards I am sure our users would find it very beneficial.  

  • Heidi Cohen

    Jason–Thank you for putting this together since many bloggers and others step over the line without realizing it. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  • Pingback: Tracking plagiarism on the web | Luigi Benetton

  • Pingback: Sosyal Medya Pazarlaması İçin 10 İpucu | Sosyal Medya

  • Pingback: SocialFresh Offers Advice on How To Use Content From Other Blogs Without Infringing Copyright « Blog Law Blog

  • M.Pinto – ProHacker

    Awesome post!! :)
    Good job Jason bro.. :)

    M.Pinto from: http://www.ProHacker.IN

  • Westonflonline

    I would like to have about 10-15 Blogs listed on my site for my readers to enjoy.  do I need permission to simply host their blog on my site?

  • http://investinsocial.com Jason Keath

    Do you want to just link to these blogs (that would be more than fine without permission) or do you want to feed all of their complete content onto your site (that would not be ok)? Or something in between?

  • asif

    hi, thanks dear I am confuse about it, I have a question , can I used clickbank, apple ,product plus content information with link back source? please help me out.my english is not good that’s why I did not understand your whole post. please help me out.

  • Dapatel

    Hi,
    .NET is both a business strategy from Microsoft and its collection of programming support for what are known as web services the ability to use the Web rather than your own computer for various services….

  • Looking4trth

    I read the entire post and still have a very simple question: I used a picture of my daughter and son-in-law, from my family photo album, on my blog.  She and her father raised hell with WordPress about copyright infringement for using the photo.  They shut down my blog, removed the photo, restarted my blog, and then sent me an email asking me if I wanted to challenge their decision.  what’s up with this?

    L4T

  • Rikki

    You are so ignorant of copyright law that I won’t even go into all the mistakes in this post. Any time you copy another person’s original words or images onto your blog without permission, it is copyright infringement. Simply linking a few of your own words back to their content is not, saying something like “In a blog post titled Copyright Infringement, Jane Doe says that you need to always ask permission.” You can use an internal link back to her blog, and that isn’t copyright infringement, because it’s your own words. If you quote her words without her permission, you are infringing, even if you link back to the original work. There used to be a 50 word understanding, that anything under 50 words was acceptable, but that isn’t acceptable now because of all the scraper/aggregator sites. Very simply, it is never o.k. to use someone’s intellectual property without their permission.

  • Dewey K

    Thanks for the post. I’m new to the blogging scene and wasn’t exactly clear about my boundaries – it’s a lot clearer now!

  • Pingback: Jump Start Your Blog: Simple Blog Post Formula | 5 Posting Styles - Social Media 101 Artizon Digital

  • Kathy Rice Grimm

    I know of a blogger who is violating my own copyright law. Should I retain a lawyer?

  • Pingback: Blog Posts Made Easy Series: Blog Post Style 1 - Repost Post - In Touch Promotions

  • Mary Wang

    I agree with you that curation has its limit.  It is not just taking 30 minutes a day to do several curated blogs.  You need to add your original thoughts and value on the top of borrowed content.  Thank you for putting together a comprehensive guide. 

  • Pingback: What Is Content Curation? | GoldenVisionTraining.com

  • Pingback: Copyright and “Fair Use” in Blogging: Part Two, Others’ Content

  • whitey

     I was selling a mineral right on public lands. A local prospector who blogs publicly about their excursions spent  a day prospecting in the same river drainage that my mineral right is located in.. 

    He posted publicly on googles blogspot some of their pics and story of their day there, all out on public lands.    I  ran across his blog about a year earlier while web surfing on google in the first place so  and since was a good way to share his link I incl  for that item description I included this paragraph in my item description.: 

    ” I don’t know this fella personally as I just last year discovered his web blog. It turns out he lives right here in same little town I live in named xxxxx xx  (meaning fine gold) and is a local prospecting enthusiast. His blog is filled with entertaining and fascinating notes, ideas, tips, equipment, and many tales of their adventures in the xxxxxxxxxx River Drainage.  This is from one of their trips up here to the North Fork.
     I wish I had his knowledge (and equipment!!!.) ” 

    …then linked his  blogspot. at that paragraph..

     No  further reference to it whatsoever.  Now he claims  I violated  his copyright  and infringed  on his intellectual property right, for profit and that I remove  link.. 

     I  humbly disagree.  What an ideal opportunity to take advangtage of the big  “hard not to notice”   button  that practically  blocks the page exit with the word  ”SHARE” written on it. 

    Where do I stand on that?

    Thanks
     

  • Jonathan

    Excellent job !! Mr. Jason, this would probably help me to clear out some things ! Thanks for posting..

  • pradeep

    is that a threat lol:)… not many guys intentionally copy if they do, they realize it sooner than later and mend their ways.

  • http://www.facebook.com/hchikamori Hugo Chikamori

    Jason, I’ve had 90% of my content on my photography blog “mirrored” by a blog in Indonesia which was taken down by Blogger upon Blogger finding out that many posts on the site were copied verbatim from my blog. I host my own blog on Blogger from which the content was “heisted”. Needless to say I was very annoyed (and that’s putting it mildly.
    As far as I’m concerned, utilizing photos that have not been paid for by the user or plagiarizing content in it’s totality is completely wrong. Not only do I have a big “do not take my photos or copy my text” on my blog, I am copyrighting each and every single one of my post text & photos. Anyone who would go about copying someone’s posts and posting it as theirs, is definitely fitting the description of “deliberate copyright infringement”.
    Now whitey, linking the blog-post is a very grey area as far as I know. The best thing is “ask the blogger” if he doesn’t mind having his post linked. That’s the safest way to play it.

  • http://socialfreshacademy.com/ Jason Keath

    Great point Hugo. Thanks for sharing.

  • Navajo Rez Non-Profit

    Thank you for this information. We are a small 501(c)3 non-profit organization that has been in existence for over 22 years on the Navajo Reservation. Pictures of our Program activities have been used as the Facebook Cover of another non-profit organization without our permission and with no mention of our Program. Please advice. Thank you!

  • Jan de Wit

    hi Jason, I have written a real case on scam I have been victim of on FB. I have put all evidence and pictures of people involved. Reason: I want everybody to know about these people. Could you please advice. Thanks, Jan (dewitonline@gmail.com)

  • Aj Zink

    @facebook-730735294:disqus your going to copyright everything you do? Its a 50$ fee for each copyright. You are really going to pay that everytime you post something online? I think if your going to post something online you have to know somewhere down the line someone is going to use your stuff for one reason or another. Its just the way it is. Yes ask permission of course or at least put a disclaimer “I do not own this work” then cite the work where it is from or the author. I could see your frustation hugo but you have to expect it when posting stuff online.

  • http://linktons.com/ Dhiraj Das

    Copying anything from any other blog is never a good idea, it is important to be original to make a brand, however, copying is only good if you can add some value to the original post with proper credit and backlinks to it.

  • Joshua Brian

    Hi Jason, Thanks for the article.

    One question I have that may seem obvious but for some thick-minded reason I can’t establish clarity on; are you allowed to use photos of graphics or logos if you are specifically referring to the authors’ websites or products? My blog is commercial, however, I am writing the typical 10 best articles that point people and encourage people to buy the products I am pointing to. For example if you are stating “10 most beautiful logos on the web” and then show the photos of those logos with direct links to their site, would this be a violation?

    Your thoughts would be appreciated.

  • Christopher Stephen Nawoichik

    Good info. Thanks for contributing.

  • Brian Gavin

    I’m unclear on the re-use of photos. We want to pull photos from multiple sources on line to satirize public figures on our website. Is attribution sufficient? Should we provide a link to the source in every case? Or does neither approach provide protection? It would be impractical to seek permission case by case.

    Thanks

  • http://socialfresh.com/blog Jason Keath

    Without permission you open yourself up to lawsuits. This would be rare, but costly. In the US $20,000 in damages is not an uncommon penalty.

    I would recommend, if you seek images of public figures, to look for images that are in the public domain (free to use by all). One such place to look is mediawiki.org.

  • http://socialfresh.com/blog Jason Keath

    I honestly do not know the law there, but have never heard of a case for someone getting sued for using a logo to promote/cover another company. We do this on socialfresh.com quite a bit of course so I clearly do not think it to be too large of a risk. However, this is not legal advice.

    I think in most cases if you are using a logo or image to link to and clearly promote the owner of the image/logo, they would of course appreciate this. And perhaps request a take down if for some reason they did not want it.

    The only caveat would be if you made misleading comments, or tried to pass off their products/property as your own for profit.

    Good luck!

  • Curious

    Question! If wanting to re-post a blog entry on your blog of which you are the author, but are no longer with the company you were originally with when creating the post, can you without direct permission from the former blog owner/company? Where does author ownership vs previous employer ownership come into play? Thanks!

  • Malek J. Al-Raggad

    What if i was in the other side of the world and i need a blog content to help people in my country. What if i took the subject and google it and read many and made my article from here and there. That would match a lot of blogs.

  • mokemondp2

    can i create a website/blog which only contents the trends in technology giving links to other famous webside or blogs?