Wordy C on Fair Use: A Case Study In Accidental Copyright Violations Part 2 of 5
What drives your blog? The need for speed or do you have a slow, careful writing hand?
The cut and paste function is a very useful but sometimes tempting tool. Used wisely (e.g. to get a small snippet of information to showcase a specific quote you are attributing to another source) you can save time assembling an article. Used incorrectly (e.g. plagiarism, copyright violation), one may find oneself in a very sticky situation when caught. Here's a unexpected, scary thought: what if you get set up?
When was the last time you read Yahoo's Copyright and Intellectual Property Policy regarding Flickr accounts? Have you seen this? It is very brief so if you have not please take the time to read it. Most people I chatted with didn't even realize the two cyber-entities were interwoven.
I noticed an interesting gap in the conversation yesterday regarding protecting users from other user manipulation. I kept thinking someone would start that thread. Hmm... Oh well... feel free to open the door here. After having spent a lot of time in their (Yahoo/Flickr) forum reading yesterday here is what I discovered:
Users change their digital permissions all the time. They own the copyrights, they own the accounts, they can check a box or click a radio button at whim and create situations you had no idea could get you caught up in potential litigation down the road if you have nothing in writing to protect yourself. For example: One user had taken some great shots that were used by a website he objected to (competition?). He changed the creative commons license and made the photographs private after the fact to deliberately break the links. He checked back a few days later and was miffed that the targeted website showed the missing photographs as being temporarily unavailbe. He openly complained in the forum about what he did and the fact that that their page rankings was still higher because of his Flickr photograph links even though the photographs were no longer visible. His discussion talking points in sum and substance? Was this link back and photograph usage (after he changed the rights after the fact) considered fair use... He thought it was unfair the other site was still benefiting from his free no longer free or visible photographs. I bet you Flickr users didn't see that mind set developing did you? It made me pause, then scrap my original draft of this post because I suddenly found myself wondering exactly what I had accidentally stumbled into while writing a completely different article.
According to Wikipedia: "Fair Use is a doctrine in United States Copyright Law that allows limited use of copyrighted material without requiring permission from the rights holders, such as use for scholarship or review. It provides for the legal, non-licensed citation or incorporation of copyrighted material in another author's work under a four-factor balancing test. The term "fair use" originated in the United States, but has been added to Israeli law as well; a similar principle, fair dealing, exists in some other common law jurisdictions. Civil law jurisdictions have other limitations and exceptions to copyright." You can read the full article here.
BTW, a balancing test may be described as any judicial test in which the jurists weigh the importance of multiple factors in a legal case... That leaves the door pretty wide open for a spectrum of conclusions, don't you think? I find the notion of being fast and fickle with copyright permissions very disturbing because there is a lot at stake for anyone who gets caught out there. How does one pass the balancing test for that type of situation if you take a photograph and use it but have no documentation because it is, or was, a social media convenience? Is that trend growing in the forum discussions a potential hint some hypothetical people may be trolling for litigation if the lightbulb goes off and they start playing with the creative commons radio button for use, no use, use, no use situations if they don't like your Google juice and suffer from traffic envy? What mechanisms are available to stop them from creative financial havoc on some poor, unsuspecting blogger if its done quietly with no Internet chatter to tip one off? Is this the beginning of the hypothetical, "Poor blogger, I wont sue you, rich blogger, you had no right to steal my work?" syndrome? Inquiring minds want to know... While we are figuring this out and trolling through more research you may want to stick with taking your own pictures, buying rights from a reputable company and getting your friends and family to help you so you can avoid the possible drama of a cease and desist notice with a damages request.
It's not just an issue of photographs. It's an issue of everything that doesn't belong to you.
Lets go to Wikipedia to quote what Plagiarism is and contrast it to a Copyright Violation. It is vital you understnd these concepts in order to understand what Fair Use is and isn't. "Plagiarism, as defined in the 1995 Random House Compact Unabridged Dictionary, is the "use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one's own original work." Within academia, plagiarism by students, professors, or researchers is considered academic dishonesty or academic fraud and offenders are subject to academic censure, up to and including expulsion. In journalism, plagiarism is considered a breach of journalistic ethics, and reporters caught plagiarizing typically face disciplinary measures ranging from suspension to termination. Some individuals caught plagiarizing in academic or journalistic contexts claim that they plagiarized unintentionally, by failing to include quotations or give the appropriate citation. While plagiarism in scholarship and journalism has a centuries-old history, the development of the Internet, where articles appear as electronic text, has made the physical act of copying the work of others much easier. Plagiarism is not copyright infringement. While both terms may apply to a particular act, they are different transgressions. Copyright infringement is a violation of the rights of a copyright holder, when material protected by copyright is used without consent. On the other hand, plagiarism is concerned with the unearned increment to the plagiarizing author's reputation that is achieved through false claims of authorship." You can read the full Wiki article here.
Bloggers are a nebulous group comprising people from all walks of life and every profession inmagined. A blogger may or may not be a student or journalist. What ever your station and status in cyber-life one point must be made very clear: your station and status does not absolve you from engaging in or being accused of plagiarism and/or copyright violations. If you like what someone says quote them. Doing so brings clarity to the discussion at hand and helps to facilitate a meeting of the minds regarding talking points. If you like a picture, get permission to use it in writing. How hard is it to shoot off a two line e-mail?
Revisit The ActiveRain Community Guidelines:
(1) Respect copyrights. Only upload content/images that you have the right to use (what you have paid for or own), and whose copyright rules allow for commercial use.
(2) Do not plagiarize (copy and paste) content from another source, and publish it as your own. You must obtain expressed permission from the original source to republish, and give reference to such within the body of your post. Permission to re-print is NOT the same as permission to re-publish. This also applies to publishing other real estate listings that are not your own.
Here is a third guideline quote I would like to share with you that I believe is very important but frequently gets overlooked: "Please take these rules seriously. Don't try to look for loopholes or ways around them; please take them to heart and try to respect the spirit in which they were created. We administrate this community using logic and common sense, and we will give greatest regard to the intention of the rule. If we decide to terminate your account as a result of a violation of these Community Guidelines, you will be prohibited from ever signing up for another account!"
Last talking point: Don't hide behind the mantra of Fair Use to swipe things that do not belong to you... It can get very expensive...
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