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Fair Use and Copyright: What You Need To Know

While running a writing community for the last three years many questions have come up regarding copyright. What is copyright? “The legal protection given to authors which protects them against unauthorized copying of their work.”

All writers at one time or another have quoted something someone else has written. I see it all the time throughout the writing industry. Maybe you quoted the lines of a poem or a line from an article or the words from a song. I quoted the work of another author in the above paragraph, where I defined copyright.

Given my example above, did I just infringe on copyright? Should I have gotten permission from the said author to quote them? No, under what is known as “fair use", I may quote the author without asking permission.

There is a misconception in the writing world about what fair use is and what copyright is. You might think that you can use anyone’s written work as long as you give them credit and provide a link to the source. Do not confuse the meaning of copyright and fair use.

An example of infringement of copyright would be if you posted someone’s poem on your website and did not ask permission from the poet, or you posted a full copyrighted article taken from a website that covers worldwide news but did not obtain permission from the author of the news article.

However, quoting two lines from the news article with a link to the entire article would generally be considered a fair use. Except for the facts in the article, news articles are protected under copyright laws.

Though you may not get sued because you reposted a few news articles, you did infringe on the author’s copyright and this could have been easily avoided by linking to the original article and only summarizing a few lines.

You won’t be surprised at the number of people who infringe on copyright and have no knowledge that they are doing so. So when is one allowed the right to fair use? Fair use is allowed for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research.

Anyone who thinks, you can use another’s written work as long as you give them credit and provide a link to the source is obviously misinformed about the laws of copyright. 


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