Cut and Pasting From the Web: Be Careful.

Last week, another client was happily posting away on their blog and proud of their word count.  Which was good.  However, most of that word count involved cutting and pasting from other web sites.  Not so good.

First of all, it's fine to share news releases.  They are written to be distributed -- the intent of that release is to get that message out.  So, sharing these cuts and paste excerpts in a blog post with an intro "news from Acme site this week" is not a bad, horrible (and by that I mean illegal) thing to do.

Second, it's fine to share information provided on government sites, for example in their "frequently asked questions" section.  Intro the cut and paste excerpt with something like "the [name of agency] recommends the following" and you're fine. 

Third, it's okay to share your own stuff.  Excerpts from your firm website in a firm blog post isn't violating anything.  Example:  the post is discussing a major product recall and you provide an excerpt from the site that discusses your state's products liability law. 

Here's where it's not okay.  It is not okay to take content from other sites - especially news sites - and cut and paste them into your blog post, wham bam.  My client, excited about coverage in the media, plugged media coverage into the blog without getting any okay from the media source.

Not to mention not checking with the news source to determine how much they wanted in payment for the use of their news story.  And its photos. 

Luckily, that post was not published online before someone checked with me and I pointed out that this was copyright infringement of the copyright held by the media source. 

Newspapers and television news departments publish news with photos and videos online because that is how they generate revenue.  They will share that content and those images with you, but they may want payment for the use.  Maybe it's a lot.  Maybe it's a little.

Point is: news stories and television videos - even if you are prominently a part of the story - should not be duplicated on your web site or blog without the permission of the copyright owner. 

Sure, you may think I am nit-picking.  After all, aren't you helping that news source by publicizing its work?  Sorry, but I don't know that the owner of the copyright will agree with that argument.  And, after all, isn't the story all about you and your victorious win, so don't you have some sort of indirect ownership right in the news article anyway?  No.  No you don't.     

Go ahead if you want to risk it.  Lots of sites do this, true.  However, now that NewsRight is out of the box, my nit-picking today may seem prophetical tomorrow.

Better safe than sorry, folks.  Plus, it's the right thing to do.  Don't just plug those news articles into a blog post, even if you or your firm is the star of the story.