Connecting organizations to their markets

Advice for safe blogging

Have you been told that you should to write a blog—that it will help you improve you search ranking by connecting your site to the industry you serve.  On top of that, you know your space and keep yourself up to date on the latest thinking.  You know of plenty of 3rd party content that you could leverage in your blog...

...but, how can you leverage this content without running the risk of someone accusing you of stealing their intellectual property?  After all, you have a reputation to protect—not to mention protecting your business's interests.

Before you think, hey, the internet is free, you have the right of fair use and the risk of trouble is low, you should learn a bit about Righthaven.  Righthaven and the Las Vegas Review-Journal have been going to courts across the country suing anyone they can find that has used Las Vegas Review-Journal material on their websites without permission.  For example, by anyone I mean even little, cash-strapped non-profits like the Center for Intercultural Organizing of Portland, Ore.  As typical of many of the suits from Righthaven, this non-profit posted on its website an entire Las Vegas Review-Journal article on their website.  Clearly a no-no, but I suspect that the poster didn't even think about the ramifications of the using the material.  They probably just thought it would be of interest to their community.  Now they are being sued in Federal court for copyright infringement.  Righthaven is monetary damages as well even asking to take over the domain name!

While Ravenhaven and its tactics may be extreme, these events demonstrate the need to exercise care when quoting 3rd party sources in your writing.  Here are a few suggestions on how you can protect yourself:

  1. Never, ever reproduce whole articles, or even substantial portions of articles, without the permission of the original publisher.  From my brief review of the Righthaven story, most of the organizations targeted published entire news articles.
  2. Fair Use is no white knight.  While copyright laws do provide for "fair use" of copyrighted material, they are not the mighty shield you might anticipate. Unfortunately, fair use is pretty much a giant legal gray area and open to broad interpretation in court.  If you need to quote something published elsewhere, limit your quote to the minimum necessary, quote it for facts instead of opinions or analysis and put it in your own words whenever possible.  Remember, copyright protects for the expression of the work—not the ideas behind it.
  3. Do the right thing, provide a direct link to the article.  This provides the original author the opportunity to benefit from potential traffic being referred into their site and helps their standing in search engines.  You want publishers to see you as a friend instead of a thief.

If you want learn more, I found what seems to be a well written article on the topic (and others) here: http://www.mylegalinsights.com/My_Legal_Insights/Main_Page/Entries/2010/9/7_Blog_Safely__Avoid_Copyright_Infringement,_Whats_Fair_and_Whats_Foul.html

Naturally, these are my personal thoughts on the matter.  As I am not a lawyer (nor do I even play one on TV), you should consult with your attorney should you need legal advice on this topic.

Image Attribution: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Richardelainechambers