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Fair Use vs Copyright Infringement

I had an interesting question from an anonymous reader last week. The reader wanted to know if I specifically get permission for each image I use, because I might be infringing on someone's copyright. If you want to see how the conversation progressed, click here. I made my points as to why I didn't believe I was infringing, but his/her query lead me to further research copyright law.

U.S. Copyright Law states that "...excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment," is fair use of the material, not copyright infringement. This blog is, at its foundation, a review of creative folks and their work to illustrate an idea, recipe, or process, which I leave open for your comment.

Most bloggers specifically state that they are happy to share their posts as long as they are credited and a link is provided to their original post. For those who do not make these specific statements, I use my best judgment about whether to share the post or not. I base that decision on the US Copyright Law and Fair Use policy.

In doing so, I'm even more convinced that I am fairly using the images and tips rather than infringing.

According to US Copyright Law, there are four factors that should be considered:

1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
I don't use ads or other income-generating means to profit from this blog. I occasionally share my work, but more frequently promote the work of others.

2. The nature of the copyrighted work
I share parts of a blogger's posted work with my readers, just as they have shared it with their readers. I instruct my readers to go to their original post for full recipes, tips, and other advice.

3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
Again, I share a portion of a blogger's work. I select a few images that I find incredibly inspiring. I never share every post that a blogger has created.

4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work
My posting could introduce a reader to a blogger they previously were unaware of. Hopefully, that reader is inspired and begins to read the other blogger frequently. Since I never claim credit for anyone else's work, I do not decrease the potential market value of the posted material or of the blogger's skill. If anything, I think that sharing these images, tips, and advice with my readers would only help them to appreciate the blogger's work all the more. 

I appreciate that reader's comments and am grateful that he/she was willing to engage in a conversation without mud-slinging. If you have more thoughts on this topic, or just want to weigh in, feel free to join the conversation here. 


Sweet Shibui Photography said...

I think you're correct in using the images because you give credit and links back to the site. Obviously, if you were trying to stake them as your own it'd be a whole different story. (This coming from 4 years of journalism school and too many courses on 'fair use') :-)

sunghee said...

ooo~~~ Thanks for this post. In the past, one of my friend told me about my entire post on someone else's (foreign language) blog without any credit nor link to my blog and didn't know what to do about it. Normally, I appreciate and thrilled to be featured on someone else's blog, but was a bit turned off by that discovery. After all the hard work and time spent on creating, photographing, and writing up the blog and was disappointed how easily someone just copy and pasted my stuff. Anyway... thanks for all you do!

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