In the recent fracas of the Associated Press versus bloggers, I noted what I felt was a reasonable level for fair use regarding quoting from news stories (basically: no more than three graphs). So the question now becomes: What do I feel qualifies as fair use while quoting from me, and anything I post on my blog?
Well, basically, I think the same level applies. If you’re quoting from Whatever, three paragraphs seems like a perfectly reasonable amount to consider as fair use. And a link back would be appreciated. If the graphs are really short (or I’m posting a numbered list, or whatever) then adjust accordingly. But generally, if you’ve posted more than a third of the entire entry, you’re missing the point of “excerpting.”
If you post more than three paragraphs of something I wrote, will I hunt you down and kill you, or at least slap a DMCA notice on your sorry ass? Unlikely. I’m aware of lots of folks who have cut and pasted entire Whatever entries onto their own blogs, mostly on the rationale that “this is too good to just quote from,” which is flattering, even if I don’t necessarily agree. Most of these folks also correctly attribute and link back to the original entry. For non-commercial, personal use, that’s fine.
Where I do get my back up is in the following circumstances:
1. A post is cut-and-pasted without attribution, implying that the poster wrote it;
2. Something of mine is used, with or without attribution, on a commercial site (i.e., the people who run it somehow expect to make money from the site, and are using my material to drive traffic).
That said, in both cases, this sort of thing happens only very rarely, and in both cases, I don’t usually have to do anything about it, because, strangely, it appears that I and my words are not unknown on Teh Intarweebs, and others will do the “hey, wait a minute…” thing for me. Thanks, guys.
By and large, if you’re worried that the amount you’re posting on your blog is too much, or that you’re infringing on my copyright, or that I’ll get angry with you and send legions of minions to your door, just send me an e-mail and ask. Generally there’s not going to be a problem.
(If you’re a commercial entity, ask about reprint fees. Yes, I have sold Whatever entries as reprints. Lots of times.)
What about pictures that I post here? Sure, you can use ‘em, full-size, for your own personal, non-commercial use, as long as you attribute and link back. And, actually, since I have three terabytes of bandwidth a month (or host them on Flickr), feel free to “hotlink” them. That said, I reserve the right to tell you to stop if you’re doing something with the photos I don’t like. That’s what copyright generally allows me to do.
(Indeed, this is why I don’t use Creative Commons licensing generally. Fact is I don’t generally mind when people use stuff of mine for their own personal amusement, but occasionally I do, and I don’t want to have some existing licensing agreement in the way of me telling some dude to knock that crap off. Call me mercurial. Of course, even in those cases, fair use applies.)
In any event, if you go with the “three graphs” rule of thumb, you’ll rarely do wrong by me, in terms of fair use. That’s pretty simple.
(For more details about fair use of the uninitiated, this article at Wikipedia is actually mostly helpful)