New affiliate marketers aren’t always sure what’s okay and what’s not, especially when it comes to using someone else’s content on your site. They see it done all the time, but they may not be aware of when it’s appropriate and how it should be done.
First, let’s establish a basic understanding of copyright. A person’s work is copyrighted the instant it is put into tangible form, whether that be on a canvas, a piece of paper, or a computer. Some people look for a copyright notice and if they don’t see one, they figure it’s okay to republish that article or image. It’s not.
Remember, the copyright exists whether it’s marked as copyrighted or not.
What if you use it but give credit to the original author? Many assuage their consciences by doing this. Does that really make it okay?
No, it doesn’t. At times that may be all the author would require of you if you were to contact her, but the key here is “contact her.” You must ask for permission before reprinting someone else’s article. This applies to images as well.
Any exceptions? One I can think of is if that article is posted on an article directory site such as EzineArticles. Authors who submit their articles to these directories are by doing so giving permission for those articles to be reprinted on other sites. However, and this is important, you must not change the article in any way, and you must keep their links intact, including those in their bio paragraph or resource box.
YouTube is a similar situation. If you see “embed” code next to a YouTube video, the video’s creator is giving you permission to embed it into your web site. You don’t need to ask for permission in this case. (However, keep in mind that they might be violating copyright themselves by uploading a video that contains someone else’s work, so you’re not totally off the hook here.)
More information regarding copyrights can be found at http://www.copyright.gov/.
Back to articles, though: In cases where you happen upon something you’d like to use, what if you just print an excerpt with a link? This is often acceptable. Keep it short and then make sure you link to the author’s site. If in doubt, contact the author.
When you are given permission in writing by an author to reprint their work, keep a record of it.
If you are the author and you find that someone has illegally published your work, your first line of defense is to contact the offender and politely explain that your work is copyrighted and not to be used without permission. Ask them to either remove your work or to add a link to your web site, whichever you prefer. Keep it professional and give them a time frame in which to comply. Many will reply that they simply didn’t know it was wrong and will gladly do what you ask.
If they refuse, your next step could be to send a more formal cease and desist letter and then to contact their advertisers or hosting company. Normally this is not necessary. There’s more good information on the steps an author can take at Lorelle’s WordPress site.
In any case, put yourself in the shoes of the work’s creator. Would you want someone to republish as their own work that you toiled over and are proud of? Don’t do it to somebody else.