More and more, we are seeing our own clients inadvertently make a use of secondary sources that constitutes infringement. This occurs most often today in uses of material obtained from websites, blogs, and aggregators. Publishing content from the Huffington Post, photos taken from Pinterest, text taken from Facts on File, and still images taken from YouTube or Google Image Search without permission from the original owners may be infringement. And as we said in the last post, placing content found on the Internet onto a website or including it in a blog is publishing it.
Early on in their creative process, we attempt to address with our clients and their staff the role secondary sources should play in the overall project. We cover a few basic concepts before they begin collecting other’s images and text for their manuscript. This keeps them from sliding down the slippery slope to infringement and self-induced idleness created by careless use of secondary sources—idleness that occurs when publication is halted for weeks or months due to illegalities in use of copyrighted content.
We tell our clients that copying secondary sources into their manuscript without consulting and crediting original sources can lead to regrets and lost revenue as well as lost time. Secondary sources are most often good for one thing: to help locate original sources that will many times lead them to copyright owners. In that way, they offer authors/publishers a way to become compliant and legal in their uses of borrowed content.
But how might writers determine if what they are quoting is a secondary source? And where might they find the original source using a secondary source? One way is to scan the content they wish to copy and to publish for signs some of it has been borrowed.
Poems and song lyrics often occupy a placement on the page set apart form the rest of text in a way that makes them easy to spot. Their credit lines are very obvious. If not screaming, they are at least speaking boldly, warning the borrower. “Watch out,” they should be saying to the copyright-savvy author/publisher. “Copyrighted material here and its being used by me, another author who likely can’t give permission for its use.” The fact that copyrighted content is freely used in one source does not mean it is in the public domain, free for all to use.
If using images of various types, authors should always check the credit line in their secondary source for the rights administrator. Like poetry and song lyrics, graphs, charts, art work, maps, and photos may carry a credit line on the same page, but sometimes their credits can be found at the end of a chapter or on the copyright page.
Word to the Wise: Secondary Sources are helpful. Authors/Publishers shouldn’t count on them to save from infringement claims, but don’t discount them as useless either. Use them to help locate content owners and administrators.
Coming in our next blog: more on using secondary sources.
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