At the Blogs United conference this past weekend, we heard from Blog Net News Editor Dave Mastio and attorney Kevin Grierson on the topic of Fair Use.
If you want to quote from someone else's blog, or perhaps from an article or a book, what are your rights and responsibilities?
The panelists explained that in determining whether reprinting materials constitutes fair use, several criteria are used. (Their comments were based on Section 107 of Title 17 of the U.S. Code.)
1. Purpose. Is the material being used to make a profit? If so, the authorities might have a problem with it. According to the panelists, commentary usage gets a lot more leeway than commercial usage.
2. Impact on original use. Will your use of the material harm the original creator’s ability to profit from it? Can you say "Napster"?
3. Substantiality. How much of the material are you using? If you’ve quoted just a few sentences, with a link to the original, you’re probably on safe ground. If you’ve lifted an entire article or reprinted something without attribution … not so much.
For bloggers, this is good news. Most of what we reprint tends be for the purpose of offering commentary. And lord knows, not many bloggers are getting rich off their posts.
What happens if you do post content that the original creator does not consider fair use?
For the most part, the panelists said, the individual or company will first simply ask you to take it down. If you do so quickly, the matter will most likely end there. If you do not take the material down, the originator can proceed to press a lawsuit and would need to prove that your usage does not constitute fair use.
(Another possibility if you do not remove the material is that your service provider may be asked to remove it. According to one of the participants in the audience with experience working for an ISP, the service provider will most likely remove the material as requested.)
For the record, anyone out there who wants to reprint material from this post (or any of my posts) on their blog is welcome to do so. Just give me credit and provide a link!