Mystery, suspense, thrillers, paranormal, horror & YA by "Cheryl Kaye Tardif" & romance by "Cherish D'Angelo". Cheryl is represented by Trident Media Group in NY.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Copyright infringement: an act of honoring or theft?

Recently, a fellow writer posted an article written by another author to our writers' group. He was trying to be helpful. But he openly admitted he didn't have permission to reproduce the article. He hadn't bothered to contact the author and ask, and the article author isn't a member of our group, as far as I know. This led to a discussion on the issue of copyright infringement.

My fellow writer's argument: he was trying to be helpful, was promoting another author who would be grateful for the extra promotion, and he hadn't profited from posting it so it wasn't infringement.

My argument: if you haven't received permission from the author and you've posted their article, especially in its entirety, it's copyright infringement. And as writers, we should be very careful not to cross that line.

Is it copyright infringement if you reproduce an article without the author's permission? Yes.

Even if you don't make any money off it? Yes.

Even if you're trying to help that author? Yes.

There were two solutions to this issue that the writer could have explored. He could've emailed the author for permission; most authors will say yes but may have guidelines/rules. Or he could've posted the link to wherever the article was posted legally.

Over the years, I've found a handful of my articles printed online without my permission. One misspelled my name. One didn't include my name. One altered my text. One added their own advertisement links where I had linked to sites like Facebook. One didn't include a link to my website. I can assure you, I didn't feel honored and I doubt I made any sales from them. In fact, I usually asked them to either attribute me correctly, or in the case of one person who thought it was their God given right to print whatever they wanted, I asked them to remove my article. But if someone asks me first if they can reproduce one of my articles (without any changes) and adds my name (correctly spelled) and a live link to my site, I am happy. And honored.

I know I'm not the only one who has experienced this. I once reproduced a post from a newsletter. The owner of the newsletter stated they had permission to use it and so did the subscribers. After I posted it, the author contacted me and asked me why I'd infringed on her copyright. I explained I thought she'd given permission, as was mentioned in the newsletter. She didn't even know her material had been used in that newsletter. She was pissssed!

I don't blame her, and I felt pretty awful about it. I offered to immediately remove my post, but she graciously allowed me to use it. I'd already attributed her and had included a link to her site (which was how she found out I'd printed her post).

Have you ever found your material illegally reproduced online? If you did, how did you respond? If you haven't, how would you feel about it--especially as I've mentioned--without your name or incorrectly spelled, no links to your site, edited text etc?

I think this is something every writer should be wary of. And anyone who feels that by using someone else's material, they're honoring them or helping them. You're not. Get permission. Or use links; they work. :-)

For some interesting insights into copyright, please check out the following:
Laws vary slightly by country, but simply put: get permission to reproduce anything you did not write.

My fellow writers and I will appreciate your respect.

Cheryl Kaye Tardif,
Bestselling author & book marketing coach

P.S. In case you're wondering, this blog post is copyrighted. If you'd like to repost it on your site, blog or to a writers' group, please email me via Or feel free to add just the title and link to the article here. Thank you. :-)


Jade Winters said...

I totally agree with you and to me, it's a respect issue. It's always important to credit the person who originally wrote the article, but even if you're including their name and link, I still think it's important to get permission first.

The fact is, by getting permission you can benefit both parties. If you posted something I wrote, I would then share what YOU posted with everybody I know, which would increase the number of people who see your article. I think there's no excuse for not getting permission.

Eileen Schuh: said...

Oh, dear. It is so easy to make missteps in cyberspace. But I agree with you, Cheryl. As writers we ought to be diligent about honouring others' copyrights. There are those who promote the idea that cyberspace is a zone completely free of censorship, political interference, legalities, etc. I have to admit that I'm fully aware that there is very little protection of privacy and/or rights when it comes to online activities. I sometimes fear that simply the act of posting something online jeopardizes my copyright--because, afterall, who's going to enforce copyright laws?

Thanks for reminding me to be respectful of others rights. It's a courtesy (and a legality) that is easy to overlook with today's technology.

Eileen Schuh
Canadian Author

Cheryl Tardif said...

Jade, you make a great point. Once you have permission from a writer to use their material, you might get their support in promoting it on your site/blog. It really does benefit both parties. Thanks for bringing this up!

Eileen, we all need reminding every now and then. :-) It is easy to get over enthusiastic and make an error. Since we are in the public eye (as is anyone online), it's important we correct those errors (like copyright issues). Vigilance and education are key, I think.

This has been an interesting discussion. Thanks for participating. :-)


Eileen Schuh: said...

As a writer, I am more interested in posting my own original material rather than copying someone else's stuff. I do like to throw in short quotes, love attaching links, and do hit that retweet button quite often. But I am online to promote myself as a writer, so pasting other people's material onto my pages or into my emails isn't benefiting me much in that regard.

Betty Dravis said...

You are right, Cher! I always ask an author before using anything they write and I like to get (and keep) their permission in an email.

Not long ago I wrote a small, rather humorous article about peanut butter, of all things. In doing research I came across a blog written by someone else. I used a few facts from that blog (ones that were common knowledge...for example how Elvis enjoyed his and I posted a link to the blog I had read, inviting our readers to read her blog if they wanted more facts about pb...)

That's good advice that you give.

Thanks for this informative blog and for the links at end.

Hugs - Betty Dravis