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How Should You Reference Other People’s Work Online?

November 7th, 2017

Jack recently asked:

If I reference a Redfin study concerning the value of photography on my website, would that be OK to do so, provided that I cite the source?

Yes, it is not a violation of copyright if you excerpt a small limited amount of text from another article as long as you identify the site where you’ve taken the text from. This is referred to as “fair use.” Here is the definition of fair use. Here is the copyright.gov definition of fair use which is a bit more legalistic.

Although these definitions of fair use appear to include photos and graphics, I would not use graphics or photos from other sites without getting permission; but that’s just my personal approach.

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5 Responses to “How Should You Reference Other People’s Work Online?”

  • The best way to do it is to provide a link. It’s exceedingly rare that you will have problems with somebody by sending visitors to their website if you are doing so in a positive way.

    You could put something up such as “According to a study by Redfin, homes sell faster and for more money with professional photos” and make the whole sentence or the first part a link to the article. If you copy and paste the entire report to your own website, it won’t matter that you give them credit. It would be the same as them lifting images from your website to put on theirs and adding a little photo credit at the bottom of the page. Fair Use is not a straight forward exception and you don’t want to operate on the premise that your usage falls under that category without good legal advice.

  • Redfin probably doesn’t mind the free publicity but I sometimes I worry about the haters when mentioning brands like discount brokers, Zillow etc whose business model cuts into established (albeit long-in-the-tooth) protocol. In fact that’s why I took local brokers off my client list – there’s an undercurrent of grudges, resentments etc that I don’t want to get mixed up in. Maybe my town’s too small, but I feel like it’s a hard learned lesson.

  • Apart from the issue of Fair Use/Copyright, a link back to the source, if it seen as credible, will lend your claim credibility.

  • For brochures, footnotes, and online, links or a context statement in the message referenceing – which could also be footnoted/linked. If you have to copy/paste an entire article, you need to step back and take a critical look at your design. Do you really want to bog the reader down? Usually, far better to cherrypick key points and mix multiple sources to express your message. Using the Redfin study as an example, mix it with NAR’s percentage of buyers using and starting process online as well as where the importance of pictures ranked (higher than Realtors!). Combined, it give a far more powerful message.

  • Larry has jumped to a conclusion which may not be warranted. It is not clear that referencing in this case means using exact wording from the source or simply citing it or paraphrasing or discussing its conclusions. As I understand Fair Use, it does not including usage in commercial contexts, which the website or blog of a commercial photographer would certainly be, which leads me to believe that quoting without written permission from the copyright holder is not permitted under these circumstances.

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