Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Copyright Basics

Recently I had posted an excerpt of another writer's content, which was posted on a writing website. I took a small piece of it and posted it, with the proper recognition of the author, with the intent of enticing my readers to go read her writing. It was cleaver and fun and was a good piece of writing.

A couple of weeks or so later, I received an email from the site, who was contacting me on behalf of the original author, who was requesting that I remove the content due to copyright infringement. And the potential loss of income due to duplicate information online. The website person was very kind and we had a good email conversation and I, of course, removed the content.

My intent was not to interfere with anyone's income nor did I pose as the author nor did I include all of the article nor even the entirety of my favorite part. And I understood that the author felt like I had crossed the copyright boundary.

So I've started looking. Trying to wade through some of the copyright lines and see what I can or can't do.

I can't plagiarize and I know what that is. Would never dream of doing it.

I also know, thanks to Ariel Gore, that there is a five word limit on including song lyrics. Which I find makes it pretty much pointless to include them. I have a really great piece I like, the song is clearly attributed to the original group and the writer. The story is distributed among the lyrics, they're woven together and the lyrics are particular to time and place. To remove the lyrics is to remove a significant emotional connection. Yes, then there would be the option of trying to contact the song writer, the group, to get permission. Yes, an option. Five words would be useless in that case.


Here are a few links I've found for copyright information for writers:

First, of course, is the US Copyright Office

Here is a link to a free e-book about Online Copyright for Writers (I have not read this yet, and am not supporting nor refuting the accuracy)

And here is a trusted link, Poets and Writers magazine starts with a concise glossary of different rights and then has a few resources at the bottom of the page.

One more resource is an attorney. I did consult with one copyright attorney a couple of years ago about an issue related to the novel I'm currently revising. The information I'd found online was a little unclear and didn't seem to specifically address the question I had about something in the book. I'd rather consult an attorney earlier if I feel there is something potentially in error rather than later.