Respect creators’ rights when you repost


For writers who are just starting to blog, part of the learning curve involves understanding copyrights, trademarks, privacy rights, and plagiarism. For example, copying images or text from the web to use on your blog is easy, but it can make you look like a fool if you don’t know how to do it legally.

I’ve been shocked to find that university professors, accustomed to copying and sharing in their course handouts published material written by other scholars, often don’t know that they can’t always do the same when they blog (i.e., self-publish) or write for a publisher. It’s no wonder some of their students don’t observe the laws either. Ignorance is no defense, though.

On many blogging platforms you must create your own links to your sources and/or include a caption or attribution line to advise readers where you legally obtained material that you’ve shared on your blog. Blogging demands the effort when you’re conscientious.

Obtain permission to reprint any text, images, and illustrations that you don’t own or that aren’t in the public domain, when fair use isn’t applicable. Know the definitions of public domain, fair use, Creative Commons, plagiarism, etc. Permission from the originator isn’t the only thing you’ll need. You’ll also need to provide proper attribution once permission has been secured in writing.

Some social media platforms, such as Facebook, Pinterest, and Tumblr, automate the link back to the site that serves as a poster’s source. However, if you’re using one of these social media sites, then as a matter of principle, before you post a link, you’ll want to determine whether the owner of the webpage to which you’re linking is the original creator of or the copyright holder for whatever you’re linking in order to share. More often than not, your particular source for an item will not be the original. Sometimes it’s easy to locate the original and link to it instead of to the page where you first found something interesting. You can always give a tip of the hat (h/t) to the poster who brought the linked item to your attention.

Try to put yourself in the shoes of the content creator, and don’t fail to give credit where credit’s due. If you can’t identify the originator or the current copyright holder, then it’s best not to share the material.

There is a lot to learn about the laws applicable to bloggers, which is why I don’t recommend the sink-or-swim method that many bloggers rely on.

If you want to know the laws, then study the material linked at legal tips for bloggers. You’ll be a more trusted source as a blogger if you respect the law and other creators.

More on these topics

What is Plagiarism?

Advertising: What is a Copyright, Patent, and Trademark?
Joel Miller

Frequently Asked Questions about Copyright
U.S. Copyright Office

Comprehensive Information for U.S. and International Copyright Law

Publishing Personal and Private Information
Digital Media Law Project

On our blogs, we used to write comments like this

water lily

Flashback to August 2007:

I wanted to respond to two comments this morning, but a samba/bossa nova band was performing in Goodale Park, and the weather in Columbus was unusually pleasant for late August, when the rattle of cicadas is usually accompanied by insufferable heat and humidity. I was imagining what to write when I arrived at the bandstand and spread my blanket on the grass in front of a pond half-filled with enormous waterlilies, their leaves shaped like the foliage of mammoth nasturtiums. When towheaded six-year-old replicas of Cloud ran along the edge of the lily pond, they were a scene from Final Fantasy VII Advent Children, the movie we’re trying to analyze.

Flicking the centipedes and spiders from my blanket, I glanced over at a neo-earth mother nursing her baby and a small group practicing tai chi in the shade of an oak. I listened to the singer introduce each selection to an audience that did not speak Portuguese. “I don’t want to steal you,” she said, translating lyrics that celebrated the diverse ethnicity, exuberant culture, and natural beauty of Brazil’s Bahia.

I don’t want to twist someone else’s meaning to suit my purposes, but I’m human and, therefore, fallible. Can I discipline myself to absorb and pay tribute to what I like instead of being viral in the sense of merely imitating or reproducing a new interpretation, only to discard it in favor of the next meme or trendy influence?

Final Fantasy VII Advent Children is not meant to be a self-contained story. In a society accustomed to vivid soundbites, the movie and its fans are anomalies. Advent Children is one episode in a multimedia series filled with symbols intended to provoke discussion and debate among fans. Mystery is alluring. It confronts us with the danger of declaring, “This is key. This is what it means.” The Bible, Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals, Machiavelli’s Il Principe, Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Think of the literature we value because it is open to individual interpretation.

I learn to say, “This is what I call it.”

Social media give us one more opportunity to listen to others. “This is what it means to me,” they say. “This is my name for it.”

Ryu Kaze translated the storyline of Final Fantasy VII Advent Children and provides his analyses of certain segments and characters, including this one:

…the knowledge of those who die returns to the Lifestream with their spirits, and there it combines with all the other knowledge; so the Lifestream is a big sea of spirit energy filled with knowledge and memories, and when someone else falls into that sea—or is exposed to it through mako infusion—that knowledge fills their brains. If they’re not capable of handling all that extra knowledge that doesn’t belong to them, it can cause their mind to “break,” resulting in them going into a vegetative state (mako poisoning). Members of SOLDIER like Zack can handle this without losing their own place among all the extra knowledge, but people with inferiority complexes (most people, including Cloud) can’t.

As the band performed its last few numbers, a man in his sixties walked confidently to the concrete apron in front of the stage. His skin was black, his head was shaved, and he was wearing dark sunglasses, stonewashed jeans, Italian leather shoes, ropes of heavy silver chain around his neck, and a sleeveless white undershirt covering a slight paunch. Slowly, he began to interpret the music in dance that was a blend of martial arts, samba, contemporary ballet, and hip hop. The effect was disconcerting but not unlovely.

The last song was “Agradeço (I Am Thankful).”

It’s beautiful here today.