Is this legal? Copyright?

38 replies
Hi everyone, hope you're well.

I was thinking, suppose I wished to create an e-book, but wasn't an expert on the subject myself, would it be illegal to use information like forum posts?

For example if I wanted to write a cook book, Would it be illegal to use recipes I'd found on a recipe forum?

Thanks
#copyright #legal
  • Profile picture of the author affilorama-portal
    Yes, it's illegal. It's called plagiarism.

    You can base your ebook on information from other sites, but you should not use the information as is unless you have permission from the originator. When writing your ebook based on the information from other sites, make sure that you add enough original content, i.e. your own original content, as well as present everything in your own words, so that you come up with something unique.
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    • Profile picture of the author spope91
      Originally Posted by affilorama-portal View Post

      Yes, it's illegal. It's called plagiarism.

      You can base your ebook on information from other sites, but you should not use the information as is unless you have permission from the originator. When writing your ebook based on the information from other sites, make sure that you add enough original content, i.e. your own original content, as well as present everything in your own words, so that you come up with something unique.
      Thanks for the reply, just as I thought. So what you're saying is, I can use core information, belongs as it's worded in my own way? So with a recipe book, other than the ingredients, I would have to re-write all the instructions and other information myself to make it more unique?

      Thanks again
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    • Profile picture of the author donhx
      Originally Posted by affilorama-portal View Post

      Yes, it's illegal. It's called plagiarism.

      You can base your ebook on information from other sites, but you should not use the information as is unless you have permission from the originator. When writing your ebook based on the information from other sites, make sure that you add enough original content, i.e. your own original content, as well as present everything in your own words, so that you come up with something unique.

      This is totally wrong if you live in the U.S.

      Visit this US Government Copyright site and you will see that recipes CANNOT be copyrighted. U.S. Copyright Office - Recipes. You can't patent or trademark the recipe itself either. You CAN copy a recipe and you don't need to ask anyone's permission.

      So you are free to use any recipe you want, but not the pictures or descriptive text. Take your own pictures if you want and write your own title and descriptions.

      Also, plagiarism is a civil matter, and not the same as copyright infringement, which could be a criminal matter. For example, Martin Luther King, Jr. was a confirmed plagiarist but he never was fined or went to jail for it. Martin Luther King, Jr. authorship issues - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

      I'm not a lawyer, but I know this forum is a bad place to get legal advice. Consult a lawyer or at least go to relevant government web site to get the facts.
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      • Profile picture of the author RickDayle
        Originally Posted by donhx View Post

        This is totally wrong if you live in the U.S.

        Visit this US Government Copyright site and you will see that recipes CANNOT be copyrighted. U.S. Copyright Office - Recipes. You can't patent or trademark the recipe itself either. You CAN copy a recipe and you don't need to ask anyone's permission.

        So you are free to use any recipe you want, but not the pictures or descriptive text. Take your own pictures if you want and write your own title and descriptions.

        [snip]

        I'm not a lawyer, but I know this forum is a bad place to get legal advice. Consult a lawyer or at least go to relevant government web site to get the facts.
        The "recipe" is conceptually, the list of ingredients, but the description of events to properly use the ingredients may be copyrightable. Certainly, a collection of recipes is a copyrightable item.

        Yes, I really do agree with your last paragraph. This forum (or any other, for that matter) is the absolutely LAST place anyone should look for anything even remotely like legal advice. Now, if you're only looking for how much reaction you get from the participants of this forum, that's fine, but don't take anything you find here even remotely as "legal advice." I'm not a lawyer, nor have I played one on stage or in movies or tv, and even if I were (in any of these categories) I wouldn't begin to provide any legal advice, with the possible exception of "always consult proper and licensed legal advice before acting on anything I say, do or recommend, or anyone else, for that matter."

        I've produced several cookbooks over the years, and have found that by contacting the original source, I've been able to include the actual recipe including directions and comments, and in some cases a photo in a collection of mine by contacting the original author and providing a note of the source. Many people look at this as a means of seeing their own name in publication, so will give you written permission without compensation beyond the "recipe courtesy of jane doe of anytown, usa" note.

        In many instances, even if you aren't dealing with recipes, just contacting the original author will result in a positive interchange that lets you use the information verbatim, as long as you provide some sort of attribution note.

        Usually, creating a new product after combining information you get from research, reducing it to the essence and creating a new work is a reasonable process. Just make sure you don't use any of the verbage or pictures of the orginal sources you use.

        Of course, you have to take everyting I say with a grain of salt. I am not a lawyer, nor do I pretend to be one in any media, and can't provide any sort of legal advice, other than the suggestion that you always seek _proper_ legal advice in the jurisdiction which you live, and the specialty you are considering. [smile]
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  • Profile picture of the author erichammer
    Using information is not plagiarism. Using words is. Let me illustrate this for you. Let's say I wrote "The best way to make money online is by building a blog and posting new articles to it consistently, every single day without fail." If you copied that exact sentence, it would be plagiarism. Rewrite the same concept in your own words: "Posting something, even just a short blurb on your blog on a daily basis is the best way to make money online," is not plagiarism even though you've used the same idea I mentioned. BTW, this isn't my idea. It's John Chow's idea and I've simply restated in different words what he says, which is 100% legal...now whether it would be ethical to do so without mentioning the source, that's another story...
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    • Profile picture of the author spope91
      Originally Posted by erichammer View Post

      Using information is not plagiarism. Using words is. Let me illustrate this for you. Let's say I wrote "The best way to make money online is by building a blog and posting new articles to it consistently, every single day without fail." If you copied that exact sentence, it would be plagiarism. Rewrite the same concept in your own words: "Posting something, even just a short blurb on your blog on a daily basis is the best way to make money online," is not plagiarism even though you've used the same idea I mentioned. BTW, this isn't my idea. It's John Chow's idea and I've simply restated in different words what he says, which is 100% legal...now whether it would be ethical to do so without mentioning the source, that's another story...
      Thanks, great post Copyrighting and such isn't my strong point, just wanted to go over a few things. Do you have a response to my 2nd post?
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  • Profile picture of the author ben1ewis
    Yeah good points guys.

    If you're taking someones words then credit it to them.

    If you're re-writing then its all good!

    Good Luck with your cook book.
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    • Profile picture of the author spope91
      Originally Posted by ben1ewis View Post

      Yeah good points guys.

      If you're taking someones words then credit it to them.

      If you're re-writing then its all good!

      Good Luck with your cook book.

      Cheers Ben.

      What on earth gave you the impression I was planning on writing a cookbook!? :rolleyes:
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      • Profile picture of the author erichammer
        Originally Posted by spope91 View Post

        Cheers Ben.

        What on earth gave you the impression I was planning on writing a cookbook!? :rolleyes:
        You asked about a recipe book. And you have to be a bit more careful with recipe books because of the fact that the numbers for amounts of particular ingredients will be exactly the same and the steps are exactly the same.

        Basically, the key concept to remember is: words can be copyrighted. Ideas cannot be copyrighted (though they can be patented).
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        • Profile picture of the author spope91
          Originally Posted by erichammer View Post

          You asked about a recipe book. And you have to be a bit more careful with recipe books because of the fact that the numbers for amounts of particular ingredients will be exactly the same and the steps are exactly the same.

          Basically, the key concept to remember is: words can be copyrighted. Ideas cannot be copyrighted (though they can be patented).
          Thanks for the reply.

          That was a bit of British sarcasm by the way, the cookbook question

          I understand what you're saying, it would seem i need to focus on creating my own ideas rather than focusing on others.

          It would seem Cookbooks are a touchy subject :p

          All the best.
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  • Profile picture of the author Sam Young
    Hi,

    Just take the idea of what you were looking for and write it in your own words.... by this way you won't break any legal things or anybody's copyright.... even no plagiarism issue's.

    Kind Regards
    Sam Young
    Double Play Media Inc.
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  • Profile picture of the author spope91
    Another question, I'm assuming that the same goes for E-mails?

    Meaning I couldn't take a recipe from a forum, and use it in my autoresponders? Unless i word it differently?

    Because surely most of the posts on the forum, the recipes would be from elsewere?

    Thanks.
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  • Profile picture of the author spope91
    I'd have thought this wouldn't be a problem as The information is free and just being passed on, I'm not passing it off as my own either.

    Cheers.
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  • Profile picture of the author GLX
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    • Profile picture of the author Richard Van
      Hi Spope,

      I was thinking, suppose I wished to create an e-book, but wasn't an expert on the subject myself, would it be illegal to use information like forum posts?
      Scroll to the bottom of this page, it says...

      Copyright 1997-2011 Internet Warriors.
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      • Profile picture of the author Sparklesperson
        I was recently on the US Copyright page. It is not a copyright violation - as I recall - to reprint something like a recipe. You should go and double check that there though.

        It would be courteous to ask permission - although I do not believe it's required.
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        • Profile picture of the author spope91
          Originally Posted by Sparklesperson View Post

          I was recently on the US Copyright page. It is not a copyright violation - as I recall - to reprint something like a recipe. You should go and double check that there though.

          It would be courteous to ask permission - although I do not believe it's required.

          Excellent, thank you very much, I'll check up on that.

          I figued there may be an exception for recipes, but that's only a thought. Plus there's the fact that I'm not charging anything for it I'm just sending the Recipe through an e-mail, the information wasn't sold to me either, it's public informtation?

          Anyway thanks for your help I'll check up on that
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  • Profile picture of the author backoffice
    you can get reference and then design in complete new words with something new ideas but with different words, obviously.
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  • Profile picture of the author Michael Oksa
    Wow!

    There is a LOT of bad advice in this thread.

    Just because YOU get the information publicly doesn't mean it's not copyrighted.

    It doesn't matter if you're charging or giving it away for free.

    Rewriting IS plagiarism. And while I know the sample given above was meant to show how to do it the right way, it was still a re-write and could be seen as a copyright violation.

    If you want to use forum posts, you need to get permission from the individual who made the post. You also need to tell them how you plan on using it.

    Above all, do NOT try to educate yourself on copyright law at a marketing forum. There is some good advice (that often gets ignored) and WAY too much bad advice that could get YOU sued.

    All the best,
    Michael
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    • Profile picture of the author spope91
      Originally Posted by Michael Oksa View Post

      Wow!

      There is a LOT of bad advice in this thread.

      Just because YOU get the information publicly doesn't mean it's not copyrighted.

      It doesn't matter if you're charging or giving it away for free.

      Rewriting IS plagiarism. And while I know the sample given above was meant to show how to do it the right way, it was still a re-write and could be seen as a copyright violation.

      If you want to use forum posts, you need to get permission from the individual who made the post. You also need to tell them how you plan on using it.

      Above all, do NOT try to educate yourself on copyright law at a marketing forum. There is some good advice (that often gets ignored) and WAY too much bad advice that could get YOU sued.

      All the best,
      Michael

      Ah thanks Michael, looks like you just saved me some potential problems

      You obviously know what you're talking about, I'd like to ask you something if I may.

      Forgetting the E-book for a moment, and going back to the E-mails.

      Suppose I take a Recipe that someone has posted on a forum, whether it be their own or not (Surely they would have aquired it from elsewere?) and I then re-write it in my own words, is that stil Plagarism?

      It's not that I've ignored anything you've said, I just don't fully understand yet.

      Thanks alot for your help, it's highly appreciated.
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    • Profile picture of the author Kay King
      Michael is right - you need to do some reading about copyright - on sites that are legal information. Asking on forums is asking for problems.

      There is a legal provision about "derivative copy" which covers taking someone else's written content, changing it up and using it. That is also a copyright violation.

      Some here will read this and think "well, I do that and don't have a problem". You don't have a problem....until you have a problem. Then it's too late for do-overs.

      Create your own copy and you'll never have to worry about DMCA notices, have to take down your site, face financial consequences or gain a reputation for plagiarism.

      kay
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      • Profile picture of the author spope91
        I just found this statement, it's pretty helpful

        "If a recipe is copied, but the cooking instruction and commentary is rewritten, plagiarism has not occurred, but good manners would have you indicate the source from which you borrowed. An attribution link to the author's website, publisher or relevant book seller is ethically appropriate"

        Read more at Suite101: Recipe Plagiarism Definition http://www.suite101.com/content/plagiarism-and-recipe-writing-a319324#ixzz1I5sayu74

        Whether that's fact or not I'm unsure, but it's ranked first page on google for the term "Recipe plagiarism" So can I assume this is fact?

        It's probably best if I search around a little more
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        • Profile picture of the author spope91
          Hey, Just found this too. This should clear everything up for anyone who's curious. it's from the U.S Copyright Office

          "Copyright law does not protect recipes that are mere listings of ingredients. Nor does it protect other mere listings of ingredients such as those found in formulas, compounds, or prescriptions. Copyright protection may, however, extend to substantial literary expression--a description, explanation, or illustration, for example--that accompanies a recipe or formula or to a combination of recipes, as in a cookbook.

          Only original works of authorship are protected by copyright. "Original" means that an author produced a work by his or her own intellectual effort instead of copying it from an existing work."

          So It looks like I can use Recipes, aslong as I re-word everything, the only Thing I can use is the ingredients
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        • Profile picture of the author MatthewM
          Forum content get syndicated over and over all over the internet and in a sense syndication is a form a plagiarism. I'm not sure users go as far as to copyright the content they post in forums. Unless they are posting an article and mention its copyrighted. And just because you post content on someone elses platform does not mean they retain copyright to the information posted.

          Anyways you shouldn't just copy several forum post and place them in to a book. Thats just lazy and your refund rate will show it. But you can use this content to research to create your own unique content.

          Also i seen many ebooks that link to forum post explaining more about the concepts they are writing all the time.
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          • Profile picture of the author Michael Oksa
            Originally Posted by MatthewM View Post

            Forum content get syndicated over and over all over the internet and in a sense syndication is a form a plagiarism. I'm not sure users go as far as to copyright the content they post in forums. Unless they are posting an article and mention its copyrighted. And just because you post content on someone elses platform does not mean they retain copyright to the information posted.

            Anyways you shouldn't just copy several forum post and place them in to a book. Thats just lazy and your refund rate will show it. But you can use this content to research to create your own unique content.

            Also i seen many ebooks that link to forum post explaining more about the concepts they are writing all the time.
            Yes, I retain the copyright of everything I write. However, when I write it on a forum, I do so with the understanding that the forum has limited use of that copyright.

            Just because it's syndicated doesn't mean I lose my copyright of what I write, and if someone uses it the worng way (such as compiling and selling my syndicated work) then that's going to be a problem.

            NOW....

            With all of that being said, I am not a lwayer, and my advice could be just as wrong, so get your advice from QUALIFIED sources.

            All the best,
            Michael
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            • Profile picture of the author Kay King
              Whether that's fact or not I'm unsure, but it's ranked first page on google for the term "Recipe plagiarism" So can I assume this is fact?
              I'm please to see that you went further than the above and looked up the copyright details about recipes. The statement above is dangerous so I'm happy you kept going. Some of the biggest scams online are on the first page of google...so that's not proof of fact.

              A list of ingredients is only a list of ingredients - it's how you combine them (the method) that makes it a recipe. Before you go too deeply into rewriting recipes, you might want to check the niche. It's not a highly profitable niche unless you own one of the top recipe sites online where user contributions help build the reputation.

              Forum content copyright belongs to the person posting the content. Most forums also include in the legal terms some rights for the owner of the forum as well.

              That said, I find it amazing how many members here have "expert blogs" that only mimic topics posted daily on the WF

              kay
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          • Profile picture of the author Richard Van
            Originally Posted by MatthewM View Post

            I'm not sure users go as far as to copyright the content they post in forums. Unless they are posting an article and mention its copyrighted. And just because you post content on someone elses platform does not mean they retain copyright to the information posted.
            Hi Matthew,

            I did mention this earlier and I believe Michaels covered one part of it.

            Whatever I write on this forum is copyright, I own it, no one can just take it and put in a book, as you mentioned. The thing is, at the bottom left of this page and every page on the forum, it says "Copyright 2009-2011 Internet Warriors", surely that does mean, the forum retains some copyright, or have I missed something here.

            I'm not stating facts and I'm ready to stand corrected, I'm genuinely interested in why they'd have the copyright info on each page if it didn't indeed apply to the whole page that it's on.
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  • Profile picture of the author Mathieu
    I do not know what it is in the U.S. or UK. But I know that in France, it would not be totally illegal. Indeed, it is possible to retrieve a text (preferably with the consent of the authors) Provided that creates a structure composed of several parts, created by several authors. creation is then given to the choice of text.

    Now I know that this is valid in France. However, I do not know what it is elsewhere. More was not a lawyer, I invite my compatriot, consult a lawyer before such a decision, to avoid any worries.
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    • Profile picture of the author Kay King
      I was just reading the Wiki link below. Copyright in France doesn't seem all that much different from the US version to me.

      French copyright law - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

      The legal position was resolved by the transposition of May 14, 1991 EU Directive into French law: computer programs and any associated preparatory works qualify for copyright protection in France as in other European Union jurisdictions. Databases are protected by a related sui generis right.
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  • Profile picture of the author Steadyon
    Whatever you do, never write the words "Salt and Pepper" as these are copyrighted.

    The term "Pepper and Salt" was ok to use, that was until I just wrote it and now that is copyrighted too.

    So you be careful....

    BUT not so careful that you end up taking no action and doing nothing. One apple crumble can be very similar to another. The key is how you market it...
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    • Profile picture of the author spope91
      Originally Posted by Steadyon View Post

      Whatever you do, never write the words "Salt and Pepper" as these are copyrighted.

      The term "Pepper and Salt" was ok to use, that was until I just wrote it and now that is copyrighted too.

      So you be careful....

      BUT not so careful that you end up taking no action and doing nothing. One apple crumble can be very similar to another. The key is how you market it...
      Lmao Very good point sir
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  • Profile picture of the author spope91
    Some really interesting points here.

    I'd like to make it clear that the plan with the E-book wasn't to simply just grab 100's of forum posts and whack a title on it, I was going to re-word everything, and I assumed that if it was a collection of certain recipes it wouldn't be a problem, E.G 300 Spanish dishes for the family.

    It's a touchy subject, Copyright laws are quite clear, but when it comes to Recipes it seems an interesting debate, as Recipes get passed around so much.

    After some research, I've come to the conclusion that if I was to E-mail a subscriber a recipe I found on a forum, the only part of the Recipe I can use is the ingredients, the rest must be re-written by myself. It would also be ethicly correct of me to mension where I found the Recipe.

    Thanks. All the best.
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  • Profile picture of the author capriliz
    In response to your questions about recipes, here is a blurb from U.S. Copyright Office - Recipes

    Copyright law does not protect recipes that are mere listings of ingredients. Nor does it protect other mere listings of ingredients such as those found in formulas, compounds, or prescriptions. Copyright protection may, however, extend to substantial literary expression--a description, explanation, or illustration, for example--that accompanies a recipe or formula or to a combination of recipes, as in a cookbook.
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    • Profile picture of the author spope91
      Originally Posted by capriliz View Post

      In response to your questions about recipes, here is a blurb from U.S. Copyright Office - Recipes

      Yeah I see that too. Looks like I have to tread carefully

      Thanks alot.
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  • Profile picture of the author erichammer
    I just want to make something clear: derivative work rules apply when you substantially reuse material from someone else, not when you reuse someone else's ideas. The classic example of a derivative work is the Mona Lisa with a mustache. This is substantially based on the original work even though it is a new expression.

    However, I stand by what I said earlier and so does the US Copyright office. IDEAS CANNOT BE COPYRIGHTED. This is expressly mentioned by them, not by me (well, by me also, but only because I know what they say). Only the expression of ideas can be copyrighted. This is mentioned right here in the FAQ from the Copyright Office: U.S. Copyright Office - What Does Copyright Protect? (FAQ). I was however mistaken on the issue of recipes, which it does say is not protected.

    This may also prove to be interesting reading for those curious about derivative works. In all cases of derivative work, there is substantial reuse of an existing work. Completely rewording an idea into your words is not plagiarism because it's no longer derivative. It's a brand new piece of work. If you took substantial parts of someone else's work and added your own material, that would be a copyright violation as a derivative work.

    Think about this: if derivative work were to constitute taking someone else's idea and simply writing it in your words then there would tons of exclusive scoops at newspapers because the first newspaper to report on a story could then claim that when someone else learned about it from them and did their own investigation, reporting on the same subject, they are creating a derivative work. OTOH, if newspaper B were to take paragraphs of text from Newspaper A and add their own material, that is legally a derivative work and not a new work. Again, as I said, as the copyright office says, ideas cannot be copyrighted. Only expression of ideas can be copyrighted.
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    • Profile picture of the author bengirwb
      Facts can not be copyrighted.
      Measurement conversion tables - F to C temperatures, etc. - can not be copyrighted.
      If a newspaper says city hall burned down, it is reporting Facts. Another newspaper can state the same facts.
      It is the description, how you say it, that can be copyrighted. "City hall burned with a hellish red and orange glow against angry dark clouds of smoke" is descriptive and can be copyrighted.
      As for forums, you might give away your copyright by posting. Some terms of service indicate that you are giving the site permission to reuse your material any way it sees fit. What you give away, you can not reclaim.
      YouTube and video sites can sell your creative work, or remix it, etc.
      Some aggregator sites are taking our videos and putting Adsense ads around them and I have seen no one here (except me) get upset about that.
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      • Profile picture of the author Michael Oksa
        Originally Posted by bengirwb View Post

        Facts can not be copyrighted.
        Measurement conversion tables - F to C temperatures, etc. - can not be copyrighted.
        If a newspaper says city hall burned down, it is reporting Facts. Another newspaper can state the same facts.
        It is the description, how you say it, that can be copyrighted. "City hall burned with a hellish red and orange glow against angry dark clouds of smoke" is descriptive and can be copyrighted.
        As for forums, you might give away your copyright by posting. Some terms of service indicate that you are giving the site permission to reuse your material any way it sees fit. What you give away, you can not reclaim.
        YouTube and video sites can sell your creative work, or remix it, etc.
        Some aggregator sites are taking our videos and putting Adsense ads around them and I have seen no one here (except me) get upset about that.
        This is only partially true. When you post at a forum you have to give them a limited license to use what you write so it can be poasted on the forum. You may also be giving them other rights to reuse your work BUT you DO NOT lose YOUR copyright of the material. You're not giving your copyright away, as you suggest, but rather granting the use of your copyright as per the terms of the forum.

        Again, video sites are limited in how they can do this. For example, if I have an album and I upload a video for all 10 tracks, YouTube can't compile those 10 tracks and sell it as my video album. PLUS I still retain full rights of my work.

        PLEASE...while there are some nuances, this stuff isn't THAT complicated. What complicates it is the spreading of misinformation (and I fully admit I could be wrong).

        All the best,
        Michael
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  • Profile picture of the author RichardDean
    According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, to "plagiarize" means

    to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own
    to use (another's production) without crediting the source
    to commit literary theft
    to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.
    In other words, plagiarism is an act of fraud. It involves both stealing someone else's work and lying about it afterward.

    But can words and ideas really be stolen?

    According to U.S. law, the answer is yes. The expression of original ideas is considered intellectual property, and is protected by copyright laws, just like original inventions. Almost all forms of expression fall under copyright protection as long as they are recorded in some way (such as a book or a computer file).

    All of the following are considered plagiarism:

    turning in someone else's work as your own
    copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit
    failing to put a quotation in quotation marks
    giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation
    changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit
    copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not (see our section on "fair use" rules)


    Anything that is not your original ideal/thought is plagiarism....

    When you re-write an article it is plagiarism
    When you hire someone to research a topic and write you a article it is plagiarism.

    Anything that is not your original ideal/thought is plagiarism....

    Good luck

    Richard
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