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I Love Your List! I’m Going To Copy It!

Blog writing tips and articlesI’ve seen a lot of bloggers fall in love with another blogger’s list and then reproduce most or the entire thing on their blog. STOP IT!

The intention behind copying and pasting such lists on another blog is usually done out of support and caring. They want to help the original blogger spread their helpful list around. They also want to store this list on their blog for their own reference, and hopefully help their readers by supplying the list. It’s usually done without the intension of causing harm, but it is harmful.

Do not copy and paste another blogger’s list because it is a violation of their copyright. If you don’t have permission, you have violated their copyright and the DMCA laws. This could result in a request from the author to remove the content, and/or more penalties against your blog.

Do not copy and paste another blogger’s list because a link is usually sufficient. And your blog readers will love you for the recommendation, coming back for more recommendations like this.

Do not copy and paste another blogger’s list because it creates trackbacks to all links in the list, which confuses readers and bloggers, who may mistake your post as the source of the list and not the original author. This hurts the original author and loses them the attention and acclaim they deserve for the hard work in putting together the list in the first place. You certainly didn’t put any effort into your copy and paste, did you? Let credit go to the deserving.

Do not copy and paste another blogger’s list because the trackback links it creates could generate a negative response to your blog from other bloggers who know you are copying the original content and violating the original author’s copyright. This doesn’t help your online reputation much.

Do not copy and paste another blogger’s list because Google checks other blogs as well as your own for duplicate content and you’ve just duplicated someone’s content. Your blog could be penalized in page ranking as a potential splog and scraper.

Do not copy and paste another blogger’s list because because your readers aren’t stupid. They know you’ve copied this, making it appear as your own when it’s not, whether the intention to give credit back is clear or not. Show respect to other bloggers, and in turn, your readers will respect you. No one likes a cheat.

Do not copy and paste another blogger’s list because it’s not a compliment. It’s not a nice thing to do. It doesn’t help the blogger. And it doesn’t help your readers to know that you are copying other people’s content and using it instead of recommending it.

Be careful with what you copy from other blogs and resources. You maybe restricted by many copyright web standards and policies which state, like my copyright policy, that fair use is restricted to 10% of the post content, or approximately 400 words. Some bloggers have stated that this means you can use the lessor of the two amounts, or the maximum of the two numbers without permission. Either way, copying the whole thing can bring a wrath of trouble you don’t need.

Blog fair and you will be rewarded by other bloggers and your readers.

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network, and author of Blogging Tips, What Bloggers Won't Tell You About Blogging.

21 Comments

  1. Posted July 18, 2007 at 5:26 am | Permalink

    You assume copyright and DMCA applicability. Many blogs use some form of Creative Commons license and many are outside US jurisdiction. For instance, it would be perfectly legal to copy an entire blog post of mine. On the other hand, it might still lower your page rank. My advice to first check the copyright (or copyleft) of the site. I also find that the Creative Commons search engine is useful for finding images and text that are available for copy and use.

  2. Posted July 18, 2007 at 5:45 am | Permalink

    I actually think it is a great post. By not copying the list and providing link to it from your blog you help the author to spread his work and acknowledge the effort he put into creating it. Whether copyright or copyleft – those are all semantics to justify actions.

    As responsible bloggers least we can is credit other people for the work they have done. One thing I have seen with a few of my posts – translation into another language (either Chinese or Japanese, not sure) with appropriate links been given to my blog but still … Am still trying to figure out how do I feel about it :) Sure, it creates more visibility and I’m glad I provided information someone felt compelled to translate but what is the view on this from legal perspective?

    Any thoughts?

    Alex

  3. Posted July 18, 2007 at 6:15 am | Permalink

    Alex: People need your permission to translate your posts/ work

    Anyway; I really don’t see the point in copying an entire list either, besides from the copyright aspect of it. If you’re not going to say something additional about it, a link to the list is enough. And if your going to blog about it, then you can just quote the part of the list your commenting on.

  4. Posted July 18, 2007 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    Lorelle, it’s sad that this post even needed to be written – but it did. So many people who publish content online have little regard for the consequences of plagiarism and near-plagiarism and just plain sloppy work. It’s great that you’ve emphasized the importance of respecting another’s originality.

    In daily conversation, we sometimes want to tell a story about what happened to someone else … but it may be that the better thing to do is mention that the story exists and pass listeners along to the experiencer herself.

  5. Posted July 18, 2007 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    “Be careful with what you copy from other blogs and resources. You are restricted by copyright law and the DMCA to 10% of the post content, or approximately 400 words.”

    Nice article, but this 10% part just isn’t true. In some cases copying even very small sections of a work could be considered a copyright violation, whereas in other cases copying very large portions of a work could be considered fair use.

    Some online articles recommend quoting less than 10% of a copyrighted article, but this is just a suggestion by those authors…there is no statutory language allowing up to 10% or forbidding more than 10%.

  6. Posted July 18, 2007 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    Great article, Lorelle! I’ll resist the urge to copy it and stick it up on my blog. I’d never actually do that, but I love sweet irony.

  7. Posted July 18, 2007 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Lorelle,

    First off, to reiterate what Brian said, there is no magic percent or number of words on any post. The law has no such figures. Fair use is based upon a several different fluid factors and the substantiality of the amount taken is just one. More important is whether the use was transformative or damaged the market for the original work.

    Still though, great post and it needed to be said, I’ve seen a lot of this lately.

    Harold,

    Granted, Creative Commons would negate the copyright infringement aspect of this so long as the person copying follows the license, which isn’t as easy to do as some think, but the DMCA still very much applies.

    Remember, those who are not U.S. citizens can file DMCA notices and those who are not citizens can be subjected to them if either A) Their site is hosted in the U.S. (most are) or B) Their site is indexed in U.S.-based search engines such as Google.

    In almost all cases, the DMCA can apply…

  8. Posted July 18, 2007 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Jonathan. It’s good to know that American imperialism is alive and well with the DMCA, even for those of us not in the US, not hosted in the US and not US citizens :-(

  9. Posted July 18, 2007 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    Thank you thank you thank you, Lorelle. You’ve nailed it exactly. STOP IT! is exactly the right demand.

  10. Posted July 18, 2007 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Jonathan and Brian, yes, you are right. And apologies. Some fast editing on a borrowed computer caused a little section to get screwed up. I’ve fixed it to make the statement right in that area.

    However, many copyright policies, like my own, set a standard for what is acceptable fair use. The 10%/400 words for blogs is become a very popular policy and the more acceptable it is, the more standardized the practice it will become.

    As for the DMCA and Copyright policies not be supported around the world, there is an idea that sits in the back of my head that says that lying, cheating, and stealing isn’t acceptable in any culture anywhere. It says a lot about a person when they think that taking someone else’s hard work, even if it is writing and photography, and uses it as their own or as a replacement for their content. I think “lazy” can be added to that list.

  11. Posted July 18, 2007 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Lorelle.

    But I saw some blogs, they entirely copy the other blogs’ posts.

    As I noticed, some blogs they copy theme list posts especially made by weblogtoolscollection. I wondered why they don’t write their own list.

  12. Posted July 18, 2007 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    Hey Lorelle,

    I feel your pain. However, I only really go after blogs who copy *without* linking back to the original source (I’ve had several foreign blog shut down because of this).

    I do this because of two reasons. First, their linkback increases my pagelink and second, it gives me a smaller population to fight against.

    I just don’t have the time of day (as well as the money to spend on extra lawyers) to fight everyone.

    Sigh…

  13. Posted July 18, 2007 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

    Darnell: Have you heard of the new Google PageRank for blog? It’s using the new TrustRank, which means you are now judged by those who link to you not just by the links. Those links from splogs can cost you.

    There have been a growing number of complaints blogged about where the blog dropped in page ranking without “reason”. They found their blog linked to by splogs, and after shutting down the splogs, their page rank increased again.

    It is about who links to you, not just the links.

  14. Posted July 19, 2007 at 6:16 am | Permalink

    Thanks a lot. Lorelle.

    I have a few question regarding copying text from other people.

    What is the best way to keep the valuable post of other people?

    One of the reason that I’m blogging is that I wanna keep the things that i like in my blog other than storing in somewhere else (eg: harddisk). When I saw some valuable blog entry, I can easily link to that post. But what if that post disappear? (it is happening all the time in internet. ) then, that valuable link become a dead link. and I will lost this content too..

    how can I keep those valuable content instead of copying and pasting in blog?

    cuz, I did like that once in this post when I think that the original one is not required to be modified.

  15. Posted July 19, 2007 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    Michael, to preserve the information of other bloggers for your personal use, you can save the page to your hard drive, use Furl to bookmark and save the original content, print it, or bookmark it and trust it will be there in the future.

    Copying and pasting in a blog may violate that person’s copyright. It does mine, it might not others. You have to read their policy to find out what they will allow.

    What people seem to be missing is that when you “save it to your blog” you are publishing the content. That changes it. It’s not like saving to your computer for your personal reference use. You just published it on your “online magazine”, your “publicly printed book”, thus it comes under different rules and laws.

    Another point I wanted to make is that just because you may think that copyright protection laws are limited to the United States, check your own government. Copyright laws have long been signed onto by countries around the world to honor copyrighted material. There are a few loop holes and not a lot someone can do within the laws of their country to penalize a copyright violator, but some countries do have very firm laws. Check to find out what they are in your country.

    With copyright, everyone needs to know that EVERYTHING published and put into “fixed form” is copyrighted. The onus is on the “user” to find out whether or not the content can be copied and used and in what form and style. It is NOT the responsibility of the author to inform you. It’s automatically copyrighted when published on any blog, website, or online anything. Never assume. KNOW. Then find out the specifics of usage.

  16. Posted July 25, 2007 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    So does that mean that this guy who attended WordCamp and copied & pasted all attendee names & associated web site links should be politely told that this is not too cool?

    I include the link only for Lorelle to look at…trusting that the NOFOLLOW tags are on:

    “http://www.daviddalka.com/createvalue/2007/07/19/wordcamp-2007-future-state-wishlist-for-wordpress-23/”

  17. Posted July 28, 2007 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    Well, in a way, it’s not cool, and I kinda talked to him about it already. Many copied and spread the list around, as a way to get link juice, but also a way to be a part of the conference. I think it’s lazy and fairly ineffective, but some people get so caught up in the enthusiasm of such an event, they forget ettiquite and the power of the link to point.

    In this article, my point is about lists that took the blogger a lot of work to generate, research, checking, rechecking, and categorizing the information so they can get the attention they deserve. Copying that list is seriously lazy and only hurts the ones who made it and makes the ones who copy it look bad.

    One attendee was so excited about my presentation at WordCamp, connecting bloggers with other bloggers of similar content, they’ve put together a categorized list of the attendees by their blogging topics. I’ve yet to check it out, but that brings new value to such a list, doesn’t it. It’s copied but improved. I like bringing a new perspective on an issue instead of photocopying it.

  18. Posted August 6, 2007 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Well said Lorelle. As you know recently I contacted you regarding someone copying your list where a moderator of that forum argues that she does not see a problem in it because they cited the source.

    Citing the source is not the same as obtaining permission from the author.

    In another situation a blogger copied two lists and passed them off as his own with the argument that lists could not be copywrited. Boy was he wrong!

  19. Posted August 12, 2007 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    To follow up on what Lorelle said about copyright law in other countries, 163 countries have adopted the Berne Convention, which standardizes certain elements of copyright and allows citizens of one country to sue a citizen of another country for copyright violation (no US imperialism here–the Convention was the idea of the French back in 1886). The WTO requires even non-subscribers of Berne to honor most parts of it, and just about every country is part of the WTO. Copyright did not originate in the US–the British came up with the legal concept around 1662, back when the colonists were just getting started in North America and were not allowed to make their own rules. :)

  20. Posted August 12, 2007 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Brian.

    The history and development of copyright fascinates me. As does the notion that it is expected that doctors, lawyers, bricklayers, mechanics, etc., get paid and expect to be paid for their services and expertise, but writers, artists, and photographers are expected to hand out their wares for free, and should “appreciate” having it taken and used by others without compensation or acknowledgment.

    How did that strange notion get entrenched in our society?

  21. Posted October 28, 2008 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    Seems like your heart in in the right place, but I’m not sure about your legal position. I would copy a few citations here for you to consider, but given the nature of the article, legal or not, I figured you’d rather have a link to them, so here are some good ones:

    http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20031228163637431


15 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] doing my daily stroll around the blogosphere, I ran across a post by Lorelle entitled I Love Your List! I’m Going To Copy It!  This is one of those great posts that really gets you thinking.  Because it seems to expand a [...]

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  4. [...] Vanfossen has requested that I reply here on her behalf. She would like me to point you to I love your list I’m going to copy it, which she recently published on this very subject. Let me quote Lorelle "Do not copy and [...]

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  8. [...] Copy Other’s Lists: The past two years have been about producing a link list and then having everyone copy and republish that link list on their blogs. Stop it. The link list belongs to the one who created it. Post a single link and words [...]

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  11. [...] as stealing. What you did is natural: you found something you enjoyed, and you wanted to share it. Even adults who should know better do such things, so it’s no surprise when a student does it. But an important part of learning to blog (or to [...]

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