Copyright law isn’t on the curriculum of most business schools or for CFP or CFA candidates. So it’s not surprising that I’ve seen well-meaning financial advisors unintentionally violate copyright law in their blogs.
What NOT to do
You cannot copy someone’s entire newspaper article or blog post word-for-word, then make it okay by giving credit to the author. This won’t suffice. Not even if you link back to the original article. You are violating copyright law.
When in doubt, paraphrase
U.S. law allows you to quote part of a written work under the doctrine of fair use, which you can read about on the federal copyright website.
Fair use is a murky concept. “There are no legal rules permitting the use of a specific number of words, a certain number of musical notes, or percentage of a work,” as it says in the federal government’s FAQ on on “How much of someone else’s work can I use without getting permission?”
As the Copyright Office says:
If you use a copyrighted work without authorization, the owner may be entitled to bring an infringement action against you. There are circumstances under the fair use doctrine where a quote or a sample may be used without permission. However, in cases of doubt, the Copyright Office recommends that permission be obtained.
Your safest course is to simply paraphrase or summarize the article that interests you, while also citing the source. It’s courteous to provide a link to the article, if it’s available online.
Using quotes very selectively will keep you safe, while protecting other authors’ copyright.
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