Is Your Real Estate Blog Breaking Copyright Law?
Please forgive the question. (And if your first reaction is “Of course not, what is she thinking!” I totally understand.) However, you would not believe the number of times I’ve seen real estate agents copy and paste entire news articles into their blog posts, mistakenly believing that they’re complying with copyright law by including the source and the author byline.
While this might seem entirely fair (after all, it’s clear that they didn’t actually write it, and the original source is noted), according to the law it is not. The finer points of what complies with copyright law blend into a grey area, but there are some very clear standards that anyone who uses current material as a research base for their own writing should know about.
Here’s a great summary on copyright law from the legal site Nolo.com. Halfway down the page you’ll find the five guidelines explaining what constitutes “Fair Use.”
Seeing as I use information from a large number of sources as the basis for an original article in the real estate email newsletter Tools For Real Estate provides each month, I’m very aware of how important it is to treat your research bases carefully. A good way to track things is to create a Word document that’s just for the topic you’re writing about, and paste into it entire articles along with their associated link. This helps you by keeping the information consolidated and by keeping the exact wording in front of you, so that you don’t mistakenly parrot the language or lean too much on material from any specific article. It also serves as proof that anything you wrote was the result of substantial research based on a number of sources.
Typically, by the time I’m done with an article I have a Word document of base material that’s between 20 and 30 pages long. This would be overkill for a typical blog post because they take much less time to write, but you get the picture. Keep track of your sources, and learn to know and love the “Fair Use” guidelines.