Newsletter to Blog: Quoting, Referencing, Citing, and Not Copyright Violating

Filed as Features, Guides on September 18, 2007 11:00 am

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What do you stuff in your newsletters? Hmm? Is it only information about what your group or business is doing? Or do you throw in articles or information you find here and there along your information highway travels?

And how do you cite the information you include in your newsletter? Do you give credit where and when credit is due?

As we worked on the process of converting the newsletter into a blog, I stumbled across numerous articles included in the newsletter for tips, how to, techniques, and information written by people not members of the association. While some of this content was available for free use in print newsletters, not all of it was licensed for publishing on the web.

This brought up several issues.

  1. How to check to see what the licenses and copyright policies were for moving the content from print to web.
  2. How to get permissions to publish the content on the web (or whether or not to include it).
  3. How to cite the original source of the content if permissions allow it to be published on the blog.
  4. How to cite references, quotes, and other content properly for inclusion in the new blog in the future.
  5. What about all the photographs, images, and graphics use in the printed and emailed newsletter?

Everything Printed or Published is Copyrighted

This was a great opportunity to teach this team of business women about copyright law. Everything printed, published, recorded, or “fixed” in a permanent form is copyrighted. That’s the international law and standards, simplified.

This applies to words, photographs, graphics, images, audio, and other visual media.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t copy and use the content. It does mean you can use it under certain restrictions and guidelines. Here are some tips for dealing with potential copyright protected content when converting from a newsletter to a blog.

  • Free-to-Use: Free-to-Use typically means that while you are free to use this however you want, it may not mean you can just do whatever you want with the content. There may or may not be conditions on that use such as private and personal use, not commercial, not on sites with ads, not for resale, and must include link credit back to the source. Check the copyright policy or ask to determine what conditions they have on “free-to-use”.
  • Buy-to-Use: Content, including photographs, can be purchased for use, but what are the conditions of that purchase and use? Does it mean one time only in a specific usage? Or repeated usage in any way, shape, or form for as long as you both shall live? Find out the fine print before you buy so you use it properly, as a purchase agreement can be interpreted as a contract.
  • Which Usage Permitted? How is the content meant to be used? Is it only for print, within newsletters, or can it be published on the web as well? Some content may have restrictions on how and where you can use it. Just because you got permission to use it in a newsletter does not mean the content has permission to be published on the web.
  • If You Can’t Use It, Can You Link to It? If you cannot use the full content, you do have other options if you want to still point readers and members to the source. Under Copyright Fair Use guides, you may “quote” from a small portion of the content with a link citing the original source. This is commonly called “blockquoting”. Or, you can describe the content and include a link to direct readers to the source.
  • Copy-cat Plagiarism: On the web, as in real life, copy-cats, copiers, and plagiarist are not welcome. Plagiarists caught after the fact tend to reflect poorly on the entire parent organization, not just on the plagiarist. Don’t risk it.

Yes, it meant that all those cute cartoons, comics, graphics of working women, children, cats, and dogs, all had to be checked to see if they could be used on the web. Tedious, but if they wanted to use them, they had to check. Otherwise, they could not be used on their new blog.

Getting Permission to Publish Content on the Web

For this particular association, the non-original content on their newsletter came from a wide variety of resources. Flyers and brochures found at conferences, conventions, classes, and business training offices, online sources, books of all ages, and from other newsletter sources.

Online content can be easy to search for to find their copyright policy. It may say yes. Printed material, however, may involve looking for a policy statement in their copyright notice, or calling or email them for permission. The same applies to schools and training offices which provide educational material.

One such pamphlet the newsletter editor typed up and posted in their newsletter came from a training office. “They were handing them out free, so why can’t I publish this?”

Just because you picked it up for free doesn’t mean you have the right to publish the material. You have to have permission.

If you cannot get permission, then you have these options:

  • Don’t publish it.
  • Use a small quote or reference and give them credit. Do not use the whole thing.
  • Rewrite the whole thing in your words, citing them as your “inspiration” and source of material. Don’t just change the words. Write it as if it was new from the start.

Privatizing Content: What Can and Can’t Be Published Publicly

For content from their national headquarters, the original source made it clear that the information was for reprinting, but didn’t specify which media form. A phone call to the main office on another question concerning the blog brought this issue to the fore, causing a bit of distress and excitement.

The 70+ year old organization had only considered members publishing this information in printed or emailed newsletters, not publicly on the web. The group assumed that since it would be okay for print and email, why shouldn’t it be okay for the web?

It turned out it wasn’t okay for their new blog. The national headquarters owned the copyrights. Their intent was to allow this information to be disseminated to their members only through their individual chapters, not to the general public. If they wanted it on the web for anyone to read, they would publish it on their national association site. In other words, they didn’t want the information published on several hundred chapter newsletter blogs and websites, creating a ton of redundant web pages.

The newsletter editor said, “But if you won’t publish it on the national site, and we can’t publish it on our site, how are we going to get this information to our members?”

They said, “Print it or email it to them.”

I said, “This is a waste of time and technology.” The whole point of moving this particular newsletter to a blog format was to make it easy to access all the information in one format, saving time and money, not to mention a few trees.

An alternative to not publishing the content would be to publish it on the blog in a way that kept the viewers limited to only “subscribers”, to those given permission to login to the blog.

There were a lot of WordPress Plugins to try and they are still experimenting with their choices. These either restrict access to specific content or specific categories (or both).

How to Quote, Reference, and Cite Content Sources

Another lesson in basic blogging arrived with how to quote, reference and cite content sources, especially online sources, in the new blog.

To reference a link in a sentence, the newsletter editor had to rewrite the sentence to include a link.

In Top 10 Internet Home Business Ideas You Can Start and Run in Your Underwear, Wendy Piersall lists top business-at-home ideas to help you stay at home with your family while earning money.

To reference a quote from an online source, you can quote an excerpt from the content and then cite it in several ways.

To cite it with an introductory sentence, and then wrap the quote in the blockquote HTML tag, such as:

In Top 10 Internet Home Business Ideas You Can Start and Run in Your Underwear, Wendy Piersall lists top business-at-home ideas to help you stay at home with your family while earning money.

Can anyone make money online? I do believe so. But not everyone WILL make money online, because as I have said before, making money on the internet takes a long time to learn, and most people give up because it can be extremely frustrating.

My one piece of advice for starting an internet home business is this :: Don’t expect to make any real money for 365 days (or so!) . Although I will add that service-based businesses tend to bring in revenue faster, I would still allow for a full year to replace your outside-the-home salary.

To include the citation within the blockquote, wrap the link source in a <cite> tag within the blockquote:

Can anyone make money online? I do believe so. But not everyone WILL make money online, because as I have said before, making money on the internet takes a long time to learn, and most people give up because it can be extremely frustrating.

Top 10 Internet Home Business Ideas You Can Start and Run in Your Underwear by Wendy Piersall

You can style the cite tag with CSS to make it italic, bold, or a smaller font, or just wrap it in a italic or bold HTML tag.

The citation must be close to the quote and infer that the quoted and referenced content comes from another source, not the post author.

Who Owns the Copyright of Our Newsletter to Blog Content?

Learning about copyrights and how much they had been violating the copyrights of others, the question came up as to who owns the copyrights of the material they were publishing, both in print, email, and through the new blog.

The content produced in this group’s newsletter has two options for copyrighting the content. They can decide that the content belongs to each individual contributor, leaving it up to them to protect and defend their copyrights in case of plagiarism and copyright violations, and help support them. Or they can write up a copyright policy that states that everything published on their newsletter and/or blog becomes the property of the group as copyright owners.

Either way, they needed to have a clear copyright policy which defined what their copyright licenses and usages were, and who owned what. Jonathan Bailey’s “Writing an Effective Plagiarism Warning” pointed to Alderman’s Copyright Notice Creator which helped them write a very basic copyright policy on their blog, which will evolve over time and usage.

Controlling Copyrighted Content

When the newsletter team decided to convert from print to blog, they had no idea how complicated and involved it would become. It wasn’t just a matter of technically transferring the content between mediums, it has become about changing policies and practices to become better journalists, writers, business women, and people.

The idea of protecting the rights of writers and artists who work hard to write and produce images and graphics in print and on the web became a very important lesson to these women, some of whom had fought for their own rights as working women for the past 50+ years.

In the next issue of this ongoing newsletter-to-blog conversion series, I’ll introduce you to a blogger’s best friend: the text editor.

Converting a Newsletter Into a Blog Series

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  8. By Tia Marie posted on July 14, 2010 at 10:40 pm
    Want an avatar? Get a gravatar! • You can link to this comment

    Great article! I wanted to suggest to you a service that I am the Community Manager for, we’re a site called clp.ly (http://clp.ly) we offer an app for bloggers.

    Here is a blurb from our about us page to give you an idea of what we do: “clp.ly gives end users a simple and visually compelling way to repost content, instantly boosting the impact of blog posts, e-mail, websites, and social networks. The visual clips and formatted quotes generated by clp.ly drive a 5x greater click-through to the original publisher than content distributed via traditional links.”

    I’d love for you to check it out and let me know what you think!

    Cheers,
    –Tia

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