This is the second of a planned three-part series on the basics of copyright in blogging. Disclaimer: I am not an attorney, and this post should not in any way be construed as legal advice. I have done my best to educate myself in an informal way on the issue of copyright, and share what I have learned with that understanding.

For part one of the series, using images on your blog, please go to this link.

Today we’re going to consider a few things to keep in mind when quoting others’ content.

First of all, and it may seem obvious but that doesn’t always seem to be the case, plagiarism is plagiarism whether it occurs on an actual printed page or on a blog, tumblr, twitter or other cyber equivalent of the printed page. Plagiarism, as defined by is “the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one’s own original work, as by not crediting the author”.  Copyright infringement is close kin to plagiarism. Both have important legal overtones that bloggers need to be aware of.

As with images, it is of key importance to credit your source for any quote, and to try to find the original source, rather than citing a compendium of quotations. In fact, this may lead you to serendipitous discoveries. A quest through google to find an original quotation that I’d previously heard only paraphrased led me to a wonderful interview of Katharine Anne Porter – see the quotation, with a link to the full interview, in the footer of my blog.

Just as it is inappropriate to post quotes from books or magazines and pass them off as your own (or even if not consciously being that blatant, not crediting the original author properly) it is also inappropriate to post others’ blog content without citing the source. In my opinion it is far better to either quote a snippet and link to the original blog, or to simply direct your readers to the blog to read the post in its entirety.

Note: when reviewing a book, it is considered “fair use” to quote a brief excerpt of the book’s text in the context of the review. However, this does not give one license to quote large chunks of text, nor to scan or otherwise transmit the book in its entirety (which I have seen done).

Others have visited this subject before me, and I urge you to read what they have to say. This topic is of increasing importance, and it behooves us all as bloggers, writers, and consumers of information, to be aware of copyright law and to adhere to it. Copyright protection is there for a reason.

Jason Keath has written an excellent summary of copyright law as it applies to blogs on Social Fresh.

Last week I pointed you to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and I am repeating that reference today.

NOLO has a helpful post about “fair use”.

Chilling Effect has posted an extensive FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) about copyright and fair use.


Next week, in the final post in this series, I’ll be talking about posting one’s own content on one’s blog. Yes, there are copyright considerations in that area, too.

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