Are You Breaking Copyright Law When You Share the Work of Others?

Occasionally I am alerted by my readers to the fact that someone is republishing my articles on another website.  Sometimes they include my name as the author, sometimes they don’t, but most times the site owner has not received permission to reuse my copyrighted work, and does not include an incoming link to my website.

And I realized that perhaps there is confusion about how to appropriately share the work of others through social networks.  After all, we want to share value with our contacts, and it’s perfectly fine to share the work of others.  However there is a way to do so appropriately.  Let’s take a look at how to do that.

  1. If you simply want to share a LINK to an article, that’s always OK.  This benefits the author, because it exposes new people to his/her site, and it also helps to raise that person’s search engine rankings.  (Incoming links are one of the things Google looks at.) To share a link, you may want to type the title, include the name of the author or blog if there’s room, and then provide the link.
  2. To share a QUOTE from an article, be sure to put the original quote in quotation marks, credit the author, and include a link to the author’s original work.  It’s also good form to hotlink the author’s name to either their website or a social networking profile of the author.
  3. If you want to republish CONTENT from the article, you must find out from the author if you have permission to do so.  If you look at the bottom-right corner of my sidebar on this blog, you will see that there is a copyright notice.  If you wish to republish content from this blog, you have to ask first.  And when you do ask, I provide you with a specific bio that I want you to include with my work, along with how to link to the original article and a social networking profile, so I can gain new followers.  You see, the articles I write on this blog take a lot of my time, and I have a specific business purpose for writing them.  Yes, I provide these articles for free on this site.  But it doesn’t give everyone the right to use it on THEIR sites, to promote their work.  I have to specifically say you’re allowed.

In this day and age, with content so freely available, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking you can use whatever you want, wherever you want, in whatever way you want.  But this is not the case.  The person producing the content has worked very hard to create that content, and deserves to benefit from it.  Make sure you have permission to reuse the content of someone else.  And ALWAYS include a link to the original work.  That’s good manners, good business, and it conforms to copyright laws.

Do you reproduce the content of others?  How do you make sure you have permission?  How do you credit the author?  Would love to read your thoughts in the comments!

16 Responses to Are You Breaking Copyright Law When You Share the Work of Others?
  1. Carol Cash
    March 25, 2014 | 4:20 pm

    Thanks Jennifer for explaining the copy write process so well! Great article!

  2. Patty Reiser
    July 8, 2010 | 9:48 pm

    As a Professional Photographer I am well versed in Copyright issues. I have quoted people on occasion and have been sure to give credit where credit is due. I believe in treating others as I would like to be treated.

  3. Vicki Leslie
    July 8, 2010 | 9:09 pm

    Thanks Jennifer,
    I’m new to all of this and the information you just shared is so helpful.

  4. Teresa Romain
    July 8, 2010 | 2:43 pm

    Hey Jen!
    Great article… so appreciate you for putting it out there, spelling it out AND taking care of yourself in the process.

    I have one question for clarity. How can I or anyone know when they’ve crossed the line from sharing a quote and sharing content? Can you share a long quote? I would never share content and create the impression that it’s mine… but sometimes I like to use LONG quotes or excerpts (giving full credit as you’ve detailed) and wonder if I need to ask permission then?

    I’d really welcome your (and anyone’s) perspective on this!


    • Jennifer Fong
      July 8, 2010 | 3:07 pm

      My thought is that if it’s more their content than your own original content, then you need permission.

      • Teresa Romain
        July 8, 2010 | 6:20 pm

        That makes sense… THANKS!

      • Karen Clark
        July 9, 2010 | 8:38 pm

        That is how the search engines see it too – the majority needs to be original content, so that’s a good rule of thumb!

  5. Steve LHeureux
    July 8, 2010 | 12:56 pm

    This is a great article to educate some on etiquette and rules of the game 🙂 I try to only post original articles to keep things straight and give credit to others if referencing any other work.

  6. Catherine James
    July 8, 2010 | 11:47 am

    Great Reminder . . . I know when I do write, I love it to be shared, but I want credit and a link back to me.

  7. Karen Clark
    July 8, 2010 | 11:29 am

    Great topic! Another thing to consider is if you copy material, Google seriously downgrades your site for having ‘duplicate content’ (it knows whose is the original) so always either just link or only use small quotes/excerpts, then link! Even if you do get permission, it helps both of you if you send them to the original post to ‘read the full article.’

    • Jennifer Fong
      July 8, 2010 | 11:39 am

      Great point Karen!

  8. Tisa
    July 8, 2010 | 11:17 am

    Thanks Jennifer very helpful!!!

  9. Katie
    July 8, 2010 | 10:31 am

    It baffles me that people think it’s okay to copy without credit. The idea is so foreign to me, I had to read this article to know that that was, in fact, what you were talking about! I guess I’m lucky I had AP English in high school, so I know all about citations. My friend teaches college English online, and it’s amazing how many times the students copy others’ work and call it their own with no sign of remorse!

  10. Monroe on a Budget
    July 8, 2010 | 10:30 am

    My procedure is to name the source site, name the headline or title, link directly to the piece, include the byline if appropriate, explain why I think the article is of interest, and then post a key sentence or paragraph in quote marks.

    The guest posts currently on my blog (since I’m out of the office for a couple weeks) are ones in which I asked the writers what they would like to share with my readers. They chose the articles, although in a couple cases I suggested topics. They all get bylines and linkbacks to their blog or site.

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