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

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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 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


When teaching my baby early learning I found cards for sale that I used to use. On one side there was a picture and on the other side 10 facts about that picture. That card is called Bit of Intelligence with a copyright sign. My question is: What is copyrighted? only the name "Bits of Intelligence" or the way the card is created with 10 facts on the back. I understand that the picture on the front of the card has it's own rights of the owner. If I would like to sell cards similar to those created by me with facts written by me, the only thing I can't do is name it Bits of Intelligence. Is that right? Thank you
Photographers earn their living by selling their work. Even phot0 sites like Flickr and Creative Commons have copyright violations as images are posted and licensed there without the photographers permission. I know this to be true as I'm married to a photographer who discovered that his key images are being sold without his permission and without any compensation to him. It's a problem to be resolved.
i hope we can use it as we will only get penalty when the owner will file a DMCA complaint. happy 4th of july
This is a great article! One thing that is generally accepted is reposting articles and sharing vidoes, etc. However, make sure that you are speaking to the article and posting a link to the original information, not copying what was written. If you use the general guidelines presented in this article, and/or always reference the article for which you are giving an opinion you should be fine.
Huh! I allways thought adding the Owner of the article or whatever to the sourcelist should be enough. Happy that im not a texter, otherwise i allready will be in trouble i think. Thanks a lot! Because in the next time i need to write my own articles - and than i have to ask for the contents...urgh.
What happens in a situation where the work you copied or referred to in your blog or website is not original in the first place. I am a CPA and I've read tons of articles on various websites that are just information obtained from government institution websites like IRS or other govenmental instutuitons. What most people do is just rephrase statements obtained from those websites and make it their own. Is this kind of thing also covered by copyright laws?
Hi, Copy and content published on a .gov government website is in the public domain and may be copied or re-used. Copyright law does not typically apply.
Great article! I've once used PLR ebooks, they can become very helpful when one needs fast content. Its always important to make sure that you have the appropriate rights to the material one uses. Its also like Flikr you cannot use other peoples photos without referring to them. Your article really helped me get some clarity on this issue thanks agin.

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