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Can You Use or Reproduce the Work of Others on Your Website or Blog?

Can You Use or Reproduce the Work of Others on Your Website or Blog?

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: August 22, 2012 Updated: September 21, 2016

Ever wondered if you can legally re-use or reproduce copy or content created by someone else? Whether you’re writing a blog, creating copy for your website, or using an image in your marketing materials – here are some tips to help understand what the law allows:

The Lowdown on Copyright

Intellectual property law is an interesting area. For example, did you know that copyright is granted the moment a piece of work is written, recorded or created? Copyright, unlike trademarks or patents, does not typically need to be formally applied for and is a general right provided by U.S. law to authors of "original works of authorship." More facts on copyright are available from StopFakes.gov and Copyright.gov.

Does that mean you can reuse or copy the work of others without consequences? Well, no.

Once someone has posted their work on the Internet – whether it’s on their website, YouTube, Flickr, or even original social media content – you generally need to request permission if you want to reproduce it. Why? Copyright law expressly prohibits you from reusing that content without permission from the author. It’s not enough to simply attribute or credit the work to an author, photographer, or videographer. Without permission, you are vulnerable to infringement lawsuits, especially if you are using the copyrighted content to drive traffic to your website or for other commercial purposes.

What About Creative Commons and Other Clearinghouses?

Many people want their content to be re-used by others, which is where the concept of Creative Commons comes into play. Creative Commons, a non-profit organization, allows content creators to give permission to the public to share and use their creative works, based on conditions of their choice – otherwise known as a Creative Commons license.

As a member of the public, you can search the Creative Commons site by keyword and find blog content, images, videos and more that you can use legally, as long as you abide by the specifics of each license.

In addition to sites like Creative Commons, you can also source images and works from licensed clearinghouses such as iCopyright, Copyright.com, Corbis, iStockPhoto, and GettyImages – for a fee. 

If You’re Not Sure – Always Ask for Permission

As mentioned above, if you are looking to use or reproduce content for commercial purposes (on a business website, blog, or marketing collateral) it’s always a good idea to ask the author first. Not only is it the courteous thing to do, it will ensure your use of that content falls under the proper and legal terms and conditions. Some authors, for example, restrict commercial use; others may not wish you to embed videos or have specific permission requirements when it comes to linking to content.  It’s always better to ask.

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About the Author:

Caron_Beesley
Caron Beesley

Contributor

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley