Plagiarism or Reblogged? What is Copyright Infringement?

Before I dive into this one let me make sure you understand that I am not a lawyer and I am not offering legal advice you can take to court. “Herb said this, your honor,” is not going to work. “Your honor, plaintiff states that on May 17th, 2020, Herb said in a blog post that he thinks…” Yeah, probably not a good idea. The other thing about it is that the research I did was on the United States of America’s Constitution and laws. I’m really not a legal expert of any sort.

I had an interesting e-mail exchange over a question about plagiarism and copyright infringement. What had happened was a person had written an original post on their blog. This is automatically copyrighted material. Any time you put a creative work into a tangible form that could be communicated to another person, you own the copyright. Including, but not limited to, a photo or video, even on your phone, a poem on a piece of a dried oak leaf, a blog post, any original work created by you. The next thing that happened to this person was that an advertising company took it and re-posted it, word-for-word, on their click-bait blog with the statement, “content material coming from” with a link to the original site. This is copyright infringement. It’s not plagiarism because they weren’t pretending that all or even part of the person’s work was their own but they did post it on their site without any sort of permission whatsoever.

I am not a big re-blogger. I think I have only even re-blogged something one time, and that was Author Sarah Angleton’s article about “Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy” (CTE) also known as “Punch Drunk Syndrome,” and how it affected her family. I thought was a very important message to get out. I don’t have the “Reblog this” button on my posts and I think most of my (real) readers are all class acts who would do things in the right way. It does make me suspicious of some of these newer followers whose sites have little or nothing on them but are mere SEO place markers.

So what should this poor blogger do? A good number of people I talked to were split. It has the advantage that yet another link to your site is out there for people to click but on the other hand, why should my name be associated with you and your firm when you don’t even have the integrity to ask me first if you can use my rightful property that I worked hard to create? Depending on what type of material and how much it’s worth (I’m only discussing a single blog post where the ultimate commercial value is little to none), here is my suggested course of action.

One thing I would do is use their “contact us” page. Legitimate companies provide a plethora of information on how to reach them, (Of course legitimate companies don’t steal other people’s work, either). This site only has a form. When I read their Privacy Policy and Terms of Service I was able to find an additional e-mail as well. My first step would be to use the contact form and the e-mail to send a polite, but clearly worded request asking them to please remove my content from their site. In this initial e-mail, I would also ask for more contact information, including phone numbers and names of persons in charge of content.

Another thing I would do is find out who the domain registrar is. I used Whois.net and found out the domain was registered through tucows.com. They are a large, fairly well-known company. E-mail them, explaining your dispute, and what you have done so far and request that they look into it or help you retrieve your stolen property from their servers. After a certain point the old marketing adage of “even bad publicity is still publicity) breaks down and somewhere along the chain, they are going to realize that you are noisy enough to make a real problem for them.

There is, obviously, a lot more to this subject and points I have probably missed. One of the main resources I used was Digital Media Law Project along with the official U.S. copyright.gov FAQ.

13 Comments

  1. I never read anything that has been reblogged. It might be a good posting but there’s too much already online to read without having to read what someone else has written what someone else has written about what someone else has written.

    • I agree. I go to a person’s blog because I want to see what they wrote or took a picture of or if they have murdered any of their characters or mined their gardens.

    • I have never yet written anything on a blog that I consider worth reblogging by someone else … but if somebody wants to reblog my stuff I am perfectly happy to let them do it because I consider it an honor and a compliment. Besides, I do not blog for money and I lose nothing at all when someone reblogs my stuff.

  2. Wow! I honestly did not know about the copyright infringement part, although I’ve reblogged many posts from other bloggers and I’ve always- ALWAYS given them the credit for their writings and let them know that I’d like to reblog the content before doing it!

    Thank you for this post, Herb!

    • Cherie, I agree with the way that you do it and that is legal and perfectly fine. Plus it is polite and respectful.

  3. First of all consider this: “Re-blogging is considered legitimate sharing when the original source is obvious and available, linking to the original source, comparable to sharing on Facebook, where it includes the link and where only a small portion is shown. Readers can then follow the link to read the full article on the original post. WordPress’ re-blogging also includes an excerpt of the blog post, a link to the original blog post, and it encourages you to add your own comments or an introduction before the re-blogged post.

    Then consider this: Since reblogging has long been a feature of the blogging platform, it should be assumed by any blogger using the platform that it is customary for posts to be picked up and reblogged. This is an understanding that should be taken into consideration before posting anything on the platform. If reblogging is customary on the platform, then bloggers should understand that anything they post is subject to being reblogged.

    Then there is this: — https://latimesblogs.latimes.com/technology/2010/06/reblog-copyright.html

    Then there is this: “You do not have to allow reblogs. You can disable the reblog function by going to Admin>settings>sharing then scroll down and check the box that says ‘Don’t show the Reblog button on posts’… this will remover the reblog facility from your posts.”

    Hope this helps.

    • Thanks John, except they copied and pasted it word-for-word without any type of permission. The site is not a WP site and she doesn’t have the re-blog button enabled.

      • When the wordpresser does not have the reblog button enabled then the wordpresser should probably include a copyright statement somewhere in the sidebar of the blog. Of course there is such thing as “Fair Use” whereby someone may legally copy and paste portions of copyrighted work under certain circumstances and the courts reportedly have not ascertained what portion of a work the copying should be limited to … there is lots of argument going on about that …The copyright notice would serve as a notice to someone else that the work is copyrighted and that would be a courtesy, especially on wordpress.com where reblogging is the norm.

        • According to the copyright law anything thing you create, when you put it in a tangible form, is your copyright. Most of the blog templates have a copyright notice in the footer. The so-called, “Fair Use Doctrine” is really murky and grey but (and I’m not able to look it up at the moment) I seem to remember there is a percentage of the work involved. What happened to this woman was that her stuff was lifted by a “content scraper” and put on what they call a farm site. I haven’t had to deal with the issue yet. I guess my stuff isn’t worthy, lol.

    • If it’s a short blurb and then takes you to the original site, that’s one thing. There is no excuse for re-posting someone’s blog without permission. I don’t think it’s customary at all. The LA Times article you link, from June 2010, makes it murky at best. If there is a reblog button on a post then that’s an invitation, otherwise you should always get the owner’s permission. The Failbook and Nitwitter retweeting arguments don’t stand with me. I never use those programs or platforms and don’t want my name associated with them. There again, an excerpt with a link is fine. I self-host this site and I don’t have a reblog button and if I did I certainly wouldn’t display it. If it is customary and I thought that the WP platform encourages this behavior I will switch to a different software.
      Even if it is legal to do without permission, which I don’t agree with, then a comment and a link to the site it will be used is necessary.

  4. Interesting take. I’ve had people reblog my posts a couple of times, and it’s never bothered me. I get a re-blogging request when they do it, which I have to approve, so if I didn’t like what they were doing with it for some reason I could nix it, but it’s not something I’ve done. I figure that if people like my stuff enough to share it it’s a bonus, and it generally drives up traffic to my site pretty noticeably. As long as they are sharing my original post, with the appropriate attribution, I’ve got no problem. If they didn’t attribute the fact that it was my work I would be pretty pissed off.

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