How do I ever come to know that I have violated copyright.The other day I was planning to post on the International Women’s Day.
I was intrigued to see that my draft resembles some thing on the subject someone else had posted on another site. I didn’t post because I was afraid I might be infringing on someone else’s copyright. What can I do? (Comment edited here for clarity.)
Dictionary.com defines copyright this way
If I understand your question you didn’t copy the article on the other site, but wrote your own article and then found the other. If that’s the case you didn’t or wouldn’t violate anyone’s copyright if you published it because you didn’t copy it.
The truth is we often write blog posts or articles that cover the same topic as someone else. When this happens there’s no violation of copyright.
It also helps to know that an idea cannot be copyrighted. Period.
It may also help to know that you don’t have to file a copyright notice to own a copyright. It’s implied. You can strengthen your case by adding a copyright notice, but you don’t have to.
It gets a bit more tricky when you’re talking about derivative works – that is when you draw on another’s work. Here’s the definition by the U.S. Copyright Act which I found at Wikipedia.
A “derivative work” is a work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted. A work consisting of editorial revisions, annotations, elaborations, or other modifications which, as a whole, represent an original work of authorship, is a “derivative work”.
Although I’m not a lawyer or a copyright expert, I understand this to mean that if you had first gone to the site and read someone’s article and then rewritten using many of their ideas it you very well might be in violation of their copyright. It would depend on how much you added to it, how much of your own thinking and research and experience you brought to it.
If, on the other hand you’d read in a blog that it was in fact International Women’s Day and decided to write an article about the day, you probably wouldn’t have been in violation.
Although there is no legal requirement for you do have done so, if you’d posted the article you wrote because you learned it was a special day from another blog, it would have been nice to say something like “Paula’s post reminded me that today is International Woman’s Day – and link to her post, then go on and write your own thoughts on the subject.
In fact the easiest way to annoy other bloggers and even damage your own reputation as a blogger is to search blogs for ideas, then write about them without giving any credit, even if you’re not required to. It’s far better to give credit even when it isn’t required, than not to.
It can be difficult for the reader to tell if Blogger A actually stole an idea from Blogger B. If you are regularly in the habit of giving credit to others you’re unlikely to get tarred with that brush.
What do you think? Have you had any of your work stolen? What did you do? Have you ever failed to give credit when you probably should have? Can you go back and fix it? What’s your understanding of copyrights and derivative works? Talk to us in comments.
If you’ve got a question about freelance writing, send it to me and I’ll do my best to answer it here.
Write well and often,
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