What follows is a guide aimed particularly at church webmasters and others who are just beginning to create blogs and websites. I get questions about this from time to time and I occasionally see things that suggest the need for this post.
Most of us have a general knowledge of copyright law, custom, and practice when it comes to printed material. Some may not know, however, that the same sorts of rules apply to borrowing material from websites (e.g., rscottclark.org) and blogs (e.g., the Heidelblog, where you are now). They do. You might not have seen it (people get to the HB from a variety of sources) but there is a copyright claim at the bottom of every page on the HB. This means that I am claiming ownership of all the original material (not the material I’m quoting or borrowing) that appears on the HB. Thus, just as one would not photocopy a book that is still under copyright, one may not copy entire posts. Now, under fair use, one may copy a chapter of a book. Is an individual post equivalent to the chapter of a book? It does not seem so.
The general custom, as I understand it (and I’m quite open to correction), is that one may borrow (copy and paste to another site) no more than 40% of a particular post and, in any event, the borrower should post a link back to the original site. If one quotes the first 40% of a post, as e.g., the Aquila Report does, that section is usually followed by something that says, “read more” with a link back to the original source. The folks at he Aquila Report kindly contacted me to make sure that I was comfortable with their regular use of material from the HB.
My goal is not to quench enthusiasm for what readers have found here (or elsewhere) nor is it to discourage readers from sharing what they’ve found here. Generally bloggers and online writers generally are happy to have others link back to their work. Link away! If readers want to borrow a bit (up to 40%), that’s fine but it’s not cricket to copy and paste entire posts without permission. I’m confident that in nearly every case, when this happens, it is done out of ignorance or haste (or both) and the purpose of re-posting is to expose a particular set of readers to something one finds helpful. For that reason, my goal is to be helpful rather than punitive. When I first started the HB, even before it was the the HB, I made a number of such mistakes and more experienced web users corrected me.
Thanks for reading the HB. I’m glad that it’s helpful (if indeed it is) and please feel free to quote from the HB and to borrow from it within the limits sketched above. Thanks to all those readers who link regularly to the HB, thereby helping others to find the resources here.