Good Copyright Practices Keep the Planets Aligned
by Michelle Boule
There are some things you can rely on with certainty. The cosmos will continue to turn and copyright will be important to authors.
Whether you write on a platform meant to send content out serially, you indie publish, or you have a traditional publisher, copyright plays a huge role in your life as an author.
While authors understand how copyright affects and protects their fiction writing, many authors, and people in general, do not understand how free use, attribution, and copyright apply when writing for the web and social media. As authors, we should be as careful with other people’s ownership as we would want them to be with our own, a kind of golden rule for content creation. It has to matter to us where pictures and information come from on the web because it matters how our own words are treated if we want to make a living.
Here are some things that every author should know about copyright, fair use, and attribution.
Creative Commons is a global non-profit which was started to help content creators license their work in more flexible ways than standard copyright. There are six different kinds of licenses allowing for various use, from traditional to completely open. If you see a Creative Commons button or statement on a website, pay attention to the usage terms. There is a lot of content on the web that is under a fair use, attribution, non-commercial style copyright. That means you are free to use the content as long as you give credit to the creator (with a link and a name), and do not use the content to make money (you are not repurposing it to sell).
It is generally accepted practice that blog and Facebook posts with pictures perform better than those without, but be careful where the pictures you use are coming from. Just because a picture is on the internet does not mean it is free to use. Many authors use stock photo services, which are great, but not everyone can afford them. There are other ways to legally find and use photos and content from the web for free by using attribution.
If you find a picture you want to use, try to find the original source of the picture. Services and apps can make this difficult because not all apps and services treat copyright the same way. On Pinterest, for example, a user can pin content they have not created themselves or that is not an original source and without a permalink. If you use Pinterest, always make sure your pins include URL information or notes about the original content creator.
Once you have the original source of the picture or other content you want to use or quote, look for a Creative Commons license or a copyright statement and then follow the guidelines. Photos and gifs created by someone other than yourself should be cited in the blog, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. posts with the creator name and URL. Gifs especially can be problematic because they are so easy to repost without attribution. Creators on Tumblr, for example, are very serious about the art they create there. Always reblog, never repost.
If you talk about it, quote it, or use it and you didn’t create it yourself, give credit with a link. If you can’t find the original source, state that openly or don’t use the content. The web is a universe of wonderful creative people making amazing things that should be shared. Just make sure you share it correctly and keep the planets aligned.
More About Michelle Boule
These days, Michelle mostly saves the worlds she makes up in her own head. She is currently working on the historical fantasy series, Turning Creek. She steals time to write in between mundane tasks like laundry and dinner. Michelle is an avid homebrewer with her husband and prefers brews made by men wearing kilts, lederhosen, or simple monks. Michelle will read almost anything in book form, loves to cook, bake, go camping, and believes Joss Whedon is a genius. Michelle can be found online at A Wandering Eyre, on Twitter as @wanderingeyre, or on Facebook.