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Bloggers: How Much Excerpting Is Fair Use?

AP, Gatehouse on the Quote & Link Warpath

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Fair use is back in the news courtesy of a New York Times article on publishers being unhappy with the use of excerpts of their content. The main focal point of the article is Henry Blodget of Silicon Alley Insider, who recently quoted a WSJ columnist.

Henry Blodget of Silicon Alley InsiderIt did not get to the point where Blodget was hassled over it. He used his own judgment and trimmed the excerpt down himself after using one that was five paragraphs long. "No, DJ did not contact us," Blodget tells WebProNews. "I reread the post a few minutes after posting and decided to trim it."

So there’s not exactly an issue there, but the concept remains a hot issue nonetheless. We are of course reminded of when Gatehouse Media recently filed a suit against the NYT Company itself when Boston.com published headlines and ledes from one of Gatehouse’s sites (it was ultimately settled out of court). And let’s not forget the AP’s legacy of content stinginess.

Sidenote: More on the NYT Gatehouse case in the following exclusive discussion:

Some have called the practice of quoting other sources and using said quotes on pages that contain advertisements, scraping. However, this is a far cry from what real scraper sites do in stealing entire articles, often with no credit or links to the original given.

No, Blodget and the Huffington Post (also cited in the NYT article), and many others including the NYT itself, WebProNews, and probably the majority of blogs and online publications you read all practice the quoting of other sources with links and proper attribution.

iEntry CEO and WebProNews Publisher Rich OrdThis argument is almost as old as the Web itself. iEntry CEO and WebProNews publisher Rich Ord founded the Internet’s first news aggregation site NewsLinx.com back in 1996 and recalls the same issues then as now. Rich says, "I was contacted by nearly every major news site when I launched NewsLinx including the New York Times and Wall Street Journal and was asked with an aggresive tone if I had permission to link to their stories. I always answered that I did not and that I would remove the links if they liked. They universally told me to keep linking. Even then they realized the value of the exposure outweighed their old style control over what I considered fair use of their content."

The real beef (at least currently) stems from the doom and gloom attitude about the state of the online advertising industry, and the newspaper industry itself. Publishers are afraid of losing readers (aka ad viewers) to the blogs and sites that are quoting their content.

Nevermind the fact that as Brian Stelter at the NYT notes, these blogs/sites are actually opening up the original sources to other readers who would not have gotten to the them in the first place had they not followed a link from the blog/site doing the quoting.

The "original sources" are more concerned about those readers of secondary sources that don’t click through to their sites. Another point I have often seen made in this discussion is that in the end, even the most original sources had to get their information from somewhere.

The most valuable articles are ones that bring together related points, and often these points have been made by others first. In the news industry, stories break from all kinds of different sources, and in the interest of keeping readers informed, other publications do not want to ignore the news. It seems only logical and courteous to give credit where credit is due via a quote and a link.

Blogging is not going away. In fact it will likely continue to grow. If publishers take action to eliminate the excerpting, it will likely just result in more uncredited regurgitation. A lot of trust in content will probably be lost as a result of a lack of accreditation. To me it seems this would only hurt the industry as a whole.

>>> How Much Excerpting Is Fair Use?

… discuss with other WebProNews readers below:

Bloggers: How Much Excerpting Is Fair Use?
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  • http://thewillfulobscurist.blogspot.com The Willful Obscurist

    ..someone else’s cake, and offer it as if it wer your own. We get taught that in primary school, why would it ever be different on the web?
    Hell, a link is all that’s needed- no biggy…

    • http://njcommuniques.blogspot.com/2009/03/fair-useabuse.html Katharine

      I agree with Paula, and add that anyone who scrapes screens admits that he or she is too lazy to do the real work involved in writing. I teach writing, and I find this very difficult to convey to my students.

  • http://arseman.com Arseman

    I rarely ever link back to people for pics (but most of the picsI show are ones from sites I’m partnered with anyway) but I always leave the stamp and logo on…

  • http://www.firmalatter.dk/latterkurser-og-workshops/latterkursus.htm Ejvind

    Of course there should be a limit, but I would rather have everyone making a decision as to what their limit is. Much like how people only use a few lines of any piece of music, because otherwise everyone knows it’s stolen and not original.

    Anotherp point of view is that bloggers may be a lot more experts on what they blog about, than “experts” that are usually used as sources in articles, so in that case bloggers are preferred as I see it.

    Interesting dilemma – thanks for bringing it up.

    • Chris Crum

      Everyone making their own limit is an interesting concept, but I think it would be hard to enforce. I think policies stating such limits would be frequently overlooked.

      As to your other point, yes, bloggers are often experts in their fields and (while not always) are probably more likely to allow the liberal quoting of their posts than the APs and the GateHouses. You don’t always have as wide a selection of sources as you might like though.

  • Guest

    I don’t see a definitive answer to the headline question. It seems there should be an agreed upon answer. A blog with which I am familiar allows two sentences and you get to pick, and requires a link to the original. Then there is the question of art content. There used to be an understanding that the copyright notice was to be observed but that seems to be gone now.

  • http://www.snerdey.com Snerdey

    People put things on the web for others to find. When are they going to get that it’s the next best thing to sliced bread having someone link to or credit your work, article, website whatever!

    Don’t want someone to link to it.. don’t put it on the web.. Ugh!

    Back to work, gotta go find something to Tweet about ;)

    Snerdey

    Hey, Twitter’s .. follow me!
    http://www.twitter.com/snerdey

    • Chris Crum

      There are certainly plenty of benefits to having someone quote your words and link to your content…Added exposure, branding, traffic, credit…

  • http://www.cybergnarus.com Carol Harkins

    … should probably do it in most cases. We’re not talking about scrapers who don’t give attribution. You are adding value to your readership by providing information, your slant on that information, and a direct link to the source of that information. How easy can that be – and a win-win for everyone involved? This is not like re-printing someone’s article in a book or magazine, or playing someone else’s music in whatever venue, thinking the original author will never catch you. The web is a whole different medium, and we need to break away from the old paradigm.

  • http://www.medlawplus.com Joe

    >>It’s a weighted test with four factors so no one can say how much copying is too much.<<

    I need to criticize my own post. Realized the error just after posting. This sentence should read “It’s a weighted test with four factors so no one can give a bright line test good for all cases.”

  • http://bitchslappin.net bj

    These corporate idiots don’t know how the web WORKS. When someone excerpts with attribution and a link back that is bring the news site, whether it be the NYT or WSJ or whoever, TRAFFIC. And a linkback is good for google. Not only that, but by walling off their own site (some are even going to a PAY model!) they’re just going to make their own websites irrelevant the way the web is in the process of making print newspapers irrelevant.

    This is the HEIGHT of stupidity.

  • http://www.auto-ak-seeds.com jj

    why not

  • http://marketsecrets.biz Market Secrets Blogger

    This is also known as “riffing” but I see nothing wrong as long as credit (preferably in the form of a live link) is given to the one who’s been “riffed”.

    For so long the ‘majors’ have had the upperhand on the little guy until the internet came along. Now they (majors) to reclaim their fame :roll:

    I think its time for them to pack it up :!:

  • http://www.kinetixmedia.com Paula Skaper

    Five paragraphs of quoted material is lazy writing. If there’s that much good content, paraphrase the key components of the original writer’s message, then provide a particularly germaine quote and a link to the original source. That way you’re crediting the originator of both the ideas and the writing, not going over bounds with the fair use of someone else’s IP AND providing value to your readers by presenting the information in the voice of your blog – the one they come there to read, while at the same time introducing a potentially valuable new source of information.

    Of course, that won’t entirely silence all the critics – eventually someone will likely accuse you of plagiarism ;>

  • http://www.heydudewheresmysite.com Alan Bleiweiss

    Personally, when I’m writing an article, if I quote anything from another source, it’s a few sentences at most. If I feel there’s more in the article that’s of value, I prefer to write it in my own words and provide links and credit back to the source.

    Just as importantly, if it’s a subject that is that important, I prefer to find two, three or more sources and have my article comment or mention all of them, again always providing links and credit.

    If someone is so lazy, greedy or myopic that they have to quote five paragraphs of someone else’s work, that is a sure way for me to not ever bother returning to that person’s site.

  • http://dougchampigny.com Doug Champigny

    I spent 15+ years with newspapers & ad agencies, and have been a full-time Internet marketer for the past 13 years, so I’ve worked both sides of this issue. That experience brings me to the following conclusions:

    1) If a media site doesn’t want their copy quoted, they should state that openly. Maybe an ‘Online Media Usage’ disclaimer should be added to all traditional media websites.

    2) Intelligent media webmasters will encourage quotation, provided the source is credited & a live link is placed back to the original article. These links not only lead people to the original site, but more importantly aid in the site’s SEO efforts.

    3) Media should have a public site that repeats what they print that day, and a members-only site with more information & bigger archives – dj.com and economist.com are great examples. Encourage linking to your public site, and forbid quoting from the private (read paid) site.

    4) Other than opinion pieces, there is never a need for a quote exceeding one or two paragraphs at most. If you’re just being lazy and looking for copy, article directories exist all over the Internet. These allow anyone to use entire articles on any topic you can name, in exchange for leaving the links live in a small Author’s Resource Box at the end of the article.

    5) Be courteous. Contact the author if in doubt or if you want to reproduce more of the body than a short exerpt. After reading a longish article on coming changes to Windows handling of streaming media a few years back, I contacted the writer to ask if I might turn the article into a downloadable report to plug one of our products. She happily agreed, since I included a short bio, photo and links to her blog in every report that was downloaded. Look for the win-win.

    There is no need, and no advantage, to either side becoming combative – together we can shape the new online media – by fighting our only accomplishment will be to clog the civil courts and test International co-operation on copyrights and intellectual property laws.

    I am not a lawyer, do not dispense legal opinions or advice, and never want to know enough to be able to do so – so I play nice.

    Suggest you do the same. :)

  • Jack

    If someone doesn’t want their article or Newspaper mentioned, maybe they have something to hide? If they do not want what they have siad scrutinized, maybe they were lieing through their teeth? And if they are going to complain about it, maybe they are in the wrong business?

  • http://www.jimmyandmarshell.net Marshell Baumgarner Russell

    To me, if someone quotes me, and links back to me, even if they give the whole story, word for word, AS LONG AS they give me the credit due to me…I love it! I see no reason, on the Internet, to complain about them getting my message, my blog, my life’s blood, to more folks. It just makes sense to me.

    Now, if someone where to take my words, and call them their own, with no link to me, and no mention of me; I’d be ticked!

    If I where a writer, and got PAID for fresh, new content; I’d be really, really ticked, and seeing my lawyer! After all, it could make it seem I stole it…not good for the rep!

    Of course, I would put it in my blog, where everyone could read it (not the fine print), that the contents of this page is secure and no one is allowed to use it without my written consent…or some legal mumbo jumbo like that.

    http://jimmyandmarshell.blogspot.com/

    http://dsrsofourlives.blogspot.com/

  • http://www.okehypnotherapy.co.uk Gary Oke

    I see no problem with excerpting entire articles as long as the credit is given to the person who wrote it and there is a link to the original article.

    I wrote up an article on my blog recently and it’s been appearing all over the internet in several countries (within the field of what I do). In every case that I’ve found, whether they are quoting a paragraph or the whole article, they have all linked to my blog and/or my website. Hmmm, lots of free links, how do I feel about that?!

  • http://2012planetx.info Guest

    For me, the answer is twofold. I don’t mind people quoting my whole articles with a link back to them, but when I quote articles, I take no more than 33%.

    If I were writing an academic piece, the limit is 25% of the quoted article with a link or mention on a works cited page, and and references may not total more than 25% of the academic piece.

    Thank you.

  • http://metastormbpm.info/ Guest

    I think it is OK. I put things on my web site and Blog to get read. If there is a link to my original piece, it’s all good to me – it’s a kind of payment.

    The one problem is when the riffer takes from a secondary source and links to that, not my original source.

    Aside from that, I belive 10% is legally allowed for copying as far as copyright law in most coutries allows, if such laws can truely be applied to the Internet.

  • http://www.tapconsultant.com Ben Weller

    I often use an excerpt of a given article on my blogs, however, I never use more than a paragraph or two. I do, however, make sure to BLOCKQUOTE all excerpts and provide clear links and written references to the original source.

    There is a fine line to be walked here, but I believe that value is provided through excerpts not only to readers, but also to the original content creator.

    Bottom line: Remember college term papers? Though the online medium is less formal, always cite your sources. Give credit where credit is due. Don’t portray the work of others as your own.

  • http://www.cee-worldwide.com CEEWorld

    My company is quite new to the whole blooging thing but we have just started our own entertainment related blog. On of our articles (of which we currently have a very limited number) was inspired by a piece originally published in The Times Online. Just to make sure we didn’t tread on anyones toes well gave them a phone call and asked if they minded what we planned to do, they asked us to submit to them via e-mail which we did and low and behold permission granted.

    Perhaps bloggers should ask a source first if they mind, from what we gather most sources like the extra publicity especially if the original article is a n old one as it brings it to people attention again and they get more site views as a result.

    • http://www.hughzebeezlaughs.blogspot.com/ Hughze

      Good Point CEEWorld. Very good point.

  • http://www.safenetwork.org Susan Rogers, Director15

    As the content in our website is of a sensative nature (sexual abuse prevention) I am always appreciative of those who email or call asking permission to use anything from our site, whether its a quote, pics or content. All I have ever asked is that they make sure to provide the information as to where they acquired the information and include a link to the page or our site with it.

    That said, I am sure there are 10 times as many who do not ask permission. As long as the information is not misused and the quote not taken out of context I really see no harm in it. It is always nice to know where your site is linked and what you have said is quoted, but this is a “World Wide” web, and I see no realistic expectation of getting everyone to accomodate the person or site by acquiring permission.

  • http://www.hughzebeezlaughs.blogspot.com/ Hughze

    It’s like you said. It has more to do with the advertising than the content. Who’s ads get viewed first. If you give too much info, the readers may feel that they have absorbed enough on the subject and not click through to the source. Then they never see the source’s ads. I would say, show just enough to catch the readers’ attention without giving them the punch line.

  • http://www.authorsden.com/carolcrzadkiewicz Carol Rzadkiewicz

    I teach writing and research at the college level, and what I tell my students is that any paper–article in this case–should be 90-95% original, meaning the words in that paper belong to them, not to someone else. Moreover, when they do “borrow” the words or the ideas of someone else, they need to acknowledge the source by providing internal documentation within the paper and full biographical information at the end. Not to do so is plagiarism, which comes from a Latin word for “kidnapper,” and plagiarism is a serious offense in academe. And, personally, I believe plagiarism is just as serious in other quarters, including blogs. Plus, I believe that any writer who relies too heavily upon another writer’s work is just downright lazy, as well as lacking in originality and creativity.

  • http://jpmgmt.com Justyn

    As long as the citation is clearly marked and links back to the exact site from which it was taken, then I don’t see the problem.

    I do think authors should be notified of the use of their work and be given the right to have their work removed. I definitely do not see this happening at all.

    I have had my work “scraped” and was cited, but the excerpt was obviously just scraped and was not doing anything other than making use of my content for their site. In this example, while I appreciated the backlink, I would have asked the author to remove my work from their site.

    One other point, I think we need to consider a citation format for internet related works, such as blogs. APA, MLA, Harvard, Chicago – they all have their own citation system, so why no make our own?

    A < citation=link >Content here< /citation > type code would be useful.

  • Teddiebear

    Let me put the cat amongst the pigeons….
    When somebody writes an article in a newspaper or any other printed media, even on the Internet, how much of the factual content is the writes own? Does the writer not report what he/she experienced and then include news of the current situation and then use sentences such as “And so-and-so said… etc etc.” Does that not constitute exceptong from the real facts?
    In my mind, if you use such info but link back to the owner’s site and/or give credit on the site where you publish the excerpts, there should not be a problem. In fact the back link will be picked up by the search bots and will give the original site a higher rating. Thus is people bleat about this, they will not benefit from back linkomg…
    Another point, in certain areas, such as amateur radio, there are a limited number of “publishers” on the web and it is common knowledge that you do not re-invent the wheel, use what somebody else has already done, but give credit.

    I say, use but link and give credit…..

    Have fun.

  • http://www.classiccarpartsclub.com Tony Lee

    I have to say I think Doug said it correctly. (and others that also commented on backlinks and referrals.)

    Unfortunately, there are too many who would ignore part 5 of his point list and just scrape an entire article rather than contact the author.

    Back to the question of: how much excerpting is fair use?

    First we must define “fair”. My thoughts are; that should be left up to each individual author approving use of their content. Perhaps they might offer the amount of content authorized by percentage or number of words.

  • http://www.fuseo.co.uk SEO by Mark Chapman

    In the UK, it is legally permissible to quote 400 to 800-word excerpts from literary sources for reviewes. This could seem a fair way to quote excerpts in other circumstances, although some might see this as restrictive?

    It is interesting that the current economic debate has concerned itself with protectionism. We seem to have a mini form of it developing within the publishing business around this issue!

    mark.

  • http://movingdollar.web.com Mark Paterson

    The only side I see as being not fair is actually not linking. When someone uses your material without linking it back to you,maybe they should be banned or penalized in some way.
    Then again they do themselves no favors as no other site will readily link to them. In a way they cut their own throat.
    When they link it should be seen as fair practice.

    • http://www.inalienablerights.org John

      The first objective of writing is to inform and entertain readers with the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Full disclosure works. The first truth in satire, for example, is that it is not trustable as content but a sort of hyperbole for humor’s sake.

      I agree with Mark. Set a standard, say up to 800 words, author’s name and source plus a link, with universal minimum penalties for infringment.

      What Internet bloggers and journalists generally lack is the writer’s standard of originality, reacting rather than advocating. It would be wise also to research the source of the source, e.g., Booby Kennedy said “Some people see things as are and ask why?…” but George Bernard Shaw wrote it as the serpent’s words to Eve while trying to seduce her in the Garden of Eden in the play Back to Methuselah. Bobby should have disclosed his source.

  • http://www.cpasitesolutions.com/index.php Kenny

    Excerpting without linking is wrong, I don’t think that anyone here is going to deny that, but that’s as far as I’m willing to go and I don’t think it’s reasonable to think that there’s any way to enforce it. Some people just have bad manners. All we can really do about it is avoid ill-mannered people.

  • http://www.moonsmusings.com LBDarling

    Call me Old Fashioned–you won’t be the first–but I think if someone is serious about quoting a living person who has an internet presence then they can take the time to send that person an email asking for permission to do so. You won’t always get it of course but it doesn’t hurt to ask first. If it’s something the writer feels strongly about and is denied permission then perhaps they can just post a link to original website without taking any quotes.

    Sometimes, I hate the ‘free for all’ atmosphere of the internet. I feel it just adds to the already pervasive ‘I’m Entitled’ attitude a lot of people seem to suffer from these days. Just because something is posted on the internet doesn’t mean it the person who put it there gives up all rights.

    Your mileage may vary.

  • Donald Cart

    Link. Don’t link. Who cares. What’s relevant is whether the quoted material is used to support original content and is not just the content itself. If somebody wants to copy content, he can always ask the copyright owner for permission to use the material. If nothing else, it’s just common courtesy.

    Don

  • Donald Cart

    Let’s get Ted Kennedy to resolve the issue. He can pay Joe Biden to write the response.
    Don

  • http://ripsychotherapy.com Mike Adamowicz

    I agree with a number of the comments already here. Somewhere between 4 sentences and 2 paragraphs with a link to the original source seems fair to me. This is close to the standard for quoting original sources in academic papers. Using more than that amount would indicate that the poster has nothing original to say about the topic and is merely reposting the material for his/her own gain.

  • http://ExitoEnDinero.com Alex

    Interesante la pagina
    puedes hoy en dia ganar dinero desde internet y tener tu negocio en piloto automatico descarga el curso aqui
    http://exitoendinero.com/2009/01/gana-dinero-mientras-duermes-por-alex.html

  • http://www.jaredconnell.com Jared

    I think that linking to a story or other web page is most always acceptable without permission, but when excerpting, this can be very harmful. If you made a post and linked to another page it would most likely entice the readers to click through to that site. But when you start to copy the whole article younot only limit the number of clicks but also can cause the search engines to see the text as duplicate content. Not good for either site, but especially the orignator of the content.

  • http://dailycomputertips.blogspot.com jai

    As stated in the article, eliminating the excerpting in blogs will only affect the industry. Also, blogs should follow the standards while using contents from other sources. The author, whoever it is, should be properly recognized.

  • http://dailycomputertips.blogspot.com jai

    As stated in the article, eliminating the excerpting in blogs will only affect the industry. Also, blogs should follow the standards while using contents from other sources. The author, whoever it is, should be properly recognized.

  • http://plancksconstant.org/ bernie

    I have this at the bottom of every one of my articles: “You may republish any content from Planck’s Constant and use it for any non-commercial purpose without needing my permission as long as you link back to the original article.”

    As a consequence, there are thousands of blogs who have quoted and republished my articles. I am a no-name blogger who started in 2006 publishing 7 or 8 articles a week, yet I get more than 1 million page views a year. I am amused when I see bloggers who disable copying on their web pages who get perhaps a hundred visitors a week and who put up all kinds of copyright restrictions as if anyone is even interested in reprinting their trite observations.

    When I excerpt someone else’s article with a clear link back to them, they benefit by getting new and different readers who may in fact become regular readers. But sadly, most anal-retentive types who think that what they write is so important and so unique and so exclusive that it requires a written consent to excerpt do not understand the Internet. That’s why they have 10 readers a day.

    By the way, I source absolutely everything I write that did not spontaneously erupt from my brain. If I happened upon an article Z by way of blogger X, I give a hat tip and link back to blogger X’s article which led me to article Z. If I write that “36% of all blacks are anti-Semitic” I footnote from whence I obtained such information. If I quote excepts from an article I blockquote with shaded background and an obvious link to the source along with the date and title of the article and the name of the website/Blog.

    If I insert a photo, I use a reduced image size stored on my own server (no hot linking) with a Photo Credit to the author and a link to the article from whence came the photo.

    The photos or articles I excerpt are not the main body of content of my articles. I do not rehash someone else’s content but add my own original spin on the material.

    That is how the Internet should work. There are morons out there who do not even want Google to point to their work; those idiots should be on private networks since they obviously have no clue why they are on the Internet to begin with.