For the Blogger or Forum Participant
by Jim McClain
(originally published July 2006)
We all love to share with our fellow Netizens and when we run across
something especially poignant, an interesting news article, or a great
photograph, we just want to post it so all our friends can revel in it
too. We get a sense of belonging and of being seen as a generous and
giving person. It would be awful if anyone knew that article, picture or
interesting prose was actually stolen from some unsuspecting, starving
artist somewhere in the ether. It's not like we conspired to pilfer
someone else's work. We might even mention their name as the author or
artist. But the fact is, taking it without permission is just like
swiping that candy bar from the corner store when we were kids. Just
like taking anything that doesn't belong to us, it's just... well, like
It may seem such a harsh accusation when we are only talking about a
little picture, or an article found while surfing that someone posted
for everyone to see. But it took time, talent and sometimes money to
produce that and it really does belong to someone else - someone who has
the copyright on it. I think it is important to understand the issue of
copyright. It would behoove any would-be blogger or forum participant
to learn about copyright. It is so misunderstood and I find it
incredible that so many Internet mavens believe anything they find on
the WWW is theirs for the taking.
Many people don't realize that just about everything you see written or
otherwise created (including any kind of artwork) is copyrighted work,
even if there is no copyright symbol or text attached. Copyright is such
an important issue to authors and artists around the world that it has
become international law. Although it may be true that it is a difficult
law to enforce, it is very similar to going to the store and pilfering a
candy bar or a steak for dinner. Don't be an Internet shoplifter.
Asking permission to use an article or image is not difficult, but it
does take a little time. Some people are so anxious to share their
unique finds that they just don't want to take the time to email the
copyright owner and ask permission. I have done so many times and find
that most requests are not only honored, but responded to very quickly.
Being first with the information is not so important to me. I enjoy
being able to help my fellow forumites, but not at the expense of my
Can't get a reply to your request? Maybe you just need to draw attention
to an issue without quoting a whole article. This is what's known as
"fair use" and many times can be accomplished without hard feelings from
the copyright owner. Taking these few steps will allow you to provide
important information to your readers and at the same time, give credit
to the owner and the author (sometimes the owner of the copyright is not
always the author):
- Post the article's title, author and date the article was written.
Post the website location of the article, including the site name and a link to the website.
Post an excerpt of the article, which is just a few sentences or a maybe a single paragraph from the article.
Use the phrase, "read more about this here" or "click here for the full article" and make it a direct link to the article.
Make additional comments about the article or the topic that makes
your post your own instead of just a copy of something from another
There will be a few who may object, but I have found
that using only small portions of a work and giving proper credit
(typing their name just isn't enough) and linking to them turns you into
a credible and responsible reporter of important information.
Pictures and other graphics are another matter. It's not like you can
post just a portion of the image. You can't even just make the picture
smaller or alter is in some small way in your attempt at fair use. But
you can describe the talent you have discovered and you can post a link
to the picture. Some sites will let you hot-link to an image (using
[IMG] or <img src= code to display the image in your message directly
from the site you found it) and sometimes they will allow you to
download the image to your own site and display the image in your
message from there. The point is, you must have permission to use an
image or any work that doesn't belong to you and the process is very
simple, even if time consuming.
Everyone wants to be helpful - a hero of sorts. Be a humble hero and
honor the hard work and the talent that goes into creating the works you
admire so much that you want to share them with others.