Copying Is NOT a Right, If One Is Stealing Your Work

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copyright

by Simona Stefanescu | Simona Media

Ownership of your original writings is protected by law. Unless you sell them, or you are hired / paid to write for someone else, you own the copyrights for published and unpublished works until you die, and they are inherited by your successors, who can use them for a limited time. With Social Solution Collective having had quite a few articles “lifted”, lately, we looked into copyright and property rights laws, and addressed the issue with an attorney specializing in intellectual property.

Your rights start with the Constitution: The Copyright Law of the United States and Related Laws, contained in Title 17 of the United States Law (December 2011), derives from the first Article of the US Constitution, which secures “for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries”.

What is copyrighted and what is not: Copyright applies to recorded / created / written writings, music, dance, photographs, sculptures, movies and architecture, etc. Your work has to be in tangible form, made permanent in some way. Copyright does NOT apply to improvised works that have not been recorded (impromptu speeches), titles, names, ideas, concepts, charts, lists made from documents, etc. There is no requirement to register or publish those works, in order to enjoy copyright protection. Also, there is no need to use a copyright notice to notify people that these are your works. You may, however, want to use the © symbol, or the word “copyright”, followed by the publishing year and your name.

Laws are complicated matters, so we asked an expert in the field. Eugene M. Pak, attorney-at-law, partner at Wendel Rosen and head of the Intellectual Property Litigation Subgroup, answered our concerns about copyright in social media and article authorship:

Do we own the copyright for the content (original writings) we put on our blogs and other social media (Facebook, Twitter)? 

Generally, you own the copyright in content that you write unless you assign the rights in writing to someone else or the writing is a “work made for hire” (i.e., the content is created for an employer in the scope of your employment or it is a “work made for hire” pursuant to a signed, written agreement and falls under one of the enumerated categories of works that can be a “work made for hire”).  As to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, while you still own the content, under those sites’ terms of use, you grant them a license to use the content. So, generally speaking, you can still use the content in other blogs or publications, but you can’t prevent Facebook or Twitter from using the content.”

Who owns the copyright for the writing / text posted by us on a website that is not our property? In this case, if I write an article for another website and I sign it, do they own my writing or it is still my property?

If you post content on a blog that is not owned by you, then you likely still own the content, however, under the blog’s terms of use (if any), you may have given the blog owner a license to use the content, or the blog owner could assert that he/she at least has implied license to use the content as he/she sees fit. If you have a contract or agreement to write content for a blog then ownership of that content will typically be governed by the terms of the contract or agreement.

The law also mentions that a “fair use” of your work – without infringing upon your rights to property – could be for educational purposes (classroom), nonprofit, non-commercial, and it should only use a small portion of it. From practice, to stay safe, it’s always better that one use a short (2-3 sentences) excerpt of your work, give you credit, and only republish with your express permission. Just keep in mind: it is illegal for other people to steal and repost your work as their own, or sell them for their profit.

For more information about copyright law, please visit the website of the United States Copyright Office

 

6 comments

  1. Phew..so much information, but so needed for both content creators and content posters. In my art classes we talked about copyrights and how fine the line can be when creating similar artwork…bottom line just don’t copy, ask for permission, or make it BLATANTLY obvious that you did not write the content and give kudos to the writer everywhere you can!
    Laurie recently posted..Come Together-Week FourMy Profile

    • Laurie, blog lifting should not happen. Period. If we do this, in college, we’re expelled – so why some do it for work purposes? T
      here is more about it on the link at the bottom, and the law is complex. I thought the basics would be useful for everyone who writes or people who have a website/blog.

  2. Always an interesting discussion. One of my children created a top notch video for a university business school class as part of an assignment. It was a commercial for a very well known beverage company. As a courtesy, my son sent a copy to the actual company. He even talked to a VP who told him that he watched the video but it was not the “direction” they were going via their marketing efforts. Fast forward to the Super Bowl and the company blatantly copied my son’s idea. It was unbelievably similar yet there was nothing he could do about it….a colossal company vs. a college student. His professor told him that he should be flattered that his idea was that good!

  3. Clients turn to lawyers to explain legal issues in terms of their particular business needs. You must be an effective litigator, nevertheless, you should be a dilemma solver. In today’s world, that’s what makes a lawyer useful to clients.

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