Before you copy content off someone’s website, blog, book or magazine, please note the following copyright facts:
1. copyright is the exclusive right for the use of a writer’s work. The writer owns it. The writer can sue those who use without their permission.
2. The writer does not have to put up a copyright notice. The law says that the rights are his already. Whether he states so or not is irrelevant. The rights are his/hers.
3. Some writers grant prior permission to copy and reproduce by putting up a small notice stating the terms for which the copying can be done. Respect their terms. It is their work. They have the right to state how it should be used.
4. Where a writer has not given permission upfront, it is okay to quote a paragraph or two of their work, with proper credit (in offline works) or a link back to the original article or story (in online works). It is wrong to reproduce the article or story in its entirety without permission. Don’t.
5. Where you would love to reproduce an article or story in its entirety, the correct thing to do is to contact the writer for permission. If he grants permission, usually, it will be on certain terms and conditions. Those terms and conditions may or may not include a fee to use their works. You are bound by law to stick to whatever those terms and conditions are, if you choose to proceed, otherwise you will be in violation of copyright. It is NEVER right to reproduce a writer’s work in entirety without prior express permission being given.
The whole point of permission is that if it hasn’t been given, then there’s a restriction. A writer’s story or article is his sweat and his product. Respect it.
This article was born out of a brief Twitter discussion that involved TexTheLaw, a Commercial Law and Intellectual Property Practitioner, some weeks ago. TexTheLaw’s tweets on the subject were lucid. What I have done in this article is flesh up some of those tweets. Of course, if you are a writer or creative person or publisher and need someone who knows his onions on the subject of intellectual property, do reach out to him.