The Right Way to Use Someone Else’s Copy

Copying is NOT the highest form of flattery.

Yet copying seems to be a constant problem on the web. Sometimes it seems that no blog or website has gone untouched.

I’m frequently asked if my material can be used in its entirety elsewhere. Generally, the answer is “no.” After all, the posts on this blog are protected by copyright and writing is how I earn my living.


While I’m pleased and flattered that someone likes what I write well enough to want to reuse it, copying a complete post and pasting it to your own site is not the right way to share my material.

So, what can you do if you want to reuse the information that you find here?

Here are three great and legitimate ways to use my material:

  1. Link to the post in social media. Every post has a Twitter button for sharing. And you’re always welcome to share a link to my material on Google+, LinkedIn, or most mainstream social media sites.
  2. Quote a few lines of the post with attribution and a link. Attribution looks something like this: On her WritingThoughts blog Laura Spencer asks, “How friendly are you to your fellow freelancers?” From that point on, use your own words to talk about the post.
  3. Hire me to write an original post for you. This option has a number of advantages. First of all, you don’t have to worry about duplicate content–what I write will be unique to your site. I have ghostwriting options available, so if you choose that option you don’t even need to provide attribution.

As a matter of fact, there’s a rather ugly word for pasting someone else’s material into your own blog without asking–plagiarism. I haven’t used that word in this post until now, because I know that a lot of new website owners and bloggers are unfamiliar with copyright law and how it applies to intellectual property.

I wanted to get the legitimate options out there first.

If you have questions or are interested in learning more, I covered this topic a few years ago in more detail in a Freelance Folder post on plagiarism.

What have I missed?

Comments

  1. says

    I’ll second John’s sentiment, Laura. It’s surprising how many people I have come across who think it is perfectly fine to copy and paste an entire post to their site as long as you give the author and blog credit.

    I had more than one client who I had to explain to them it was not okay. One chose to ignore my advice. She was convinced she was right. Oh well, I tried.

  2. says

    I actually saw my site copied and pasted. I was floored to say the least. I’ve also seen entire posts of mine translated into Spanish and posted to a blog. I’m not sure if I am flattered, because a lot of these folks copy and paste the crappy stuff too – LOL. I think they’re just lazy opportunists who want to capitalize on someone else’s efforts.

    I’m only talking about the ones who, in essence, plagiarize. They just annoy me. I’m hoping my site is never penalized because the work is duplicative AND found on these spammy sites.

  3. Laura Spencer says

    Stacey, I’m sorry that happened to you. Sadly, it’s not uncommon. I think that I read where Google has a way to tell whether it’s really from your site, though.

  4. Michael says

    For someone like me who is new to the freelancing gig, I’m shocked that people would have the “stones” to pass off someone else’s work as their own. I have used other peoples ideas to generate a new spin on the piece but have never copied someone else’s work.

    It would be interesting to see if the increase in new online writers / freelancers is related to this issue. I’m inclined to think it plays some role because people are in need of “clips” so they try to use other peoples work to gain some credibility.

    Great post with some helpful tips Laura.
    Cheers!

  5. says

    Hi Michael,

    It happens more often than you’d think–and not just on portfolios. Low quality blogs and other sites also steal material.

    Rather than being related to the increase of writers, I think it has to do with the increase of websites and blogs. People start blogs or websites hoping to earn money, but they don’t the time or ability to create new content for those sites.

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