How to Share Content and Avoid Copyright Infringement

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Some REALTORS® subscribe to industry newsletters or blogs. Occasionally REALTORS® may share these publications with their own subscribers, going as far as reproducing key excerpts of the publication, or even reproducing the publication in its entirety. While it’s great to keep subscribers informed, issues can arise when content is shared without seeking permission or giving credit to the creator of the content.

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In November 2021, we reminded REALTORS® of certain legal issues that could emerge when re-using listing photographs. One such issue was copyright infringement, which may present itself in many forms.

More from CREA Café on copyright:

Consider this scenario: A journalist writes an article about current home design trends to consider before putting a home on the market. A REALTOR® reads this article and immediately realizes it’s exactly the type of content their subscribers would love to read about. The REALTOR® proceeds to copy and paste the article, or key excerpts, onto their website and/or blog.

An individual who creates an “expression of idea” or “work” is the owner of that content. This can include a photograph, as mentioned in our previous blog post, or literary work, such as an article. In the above scenario, the journalist, or their publisher, likely owns the copyright in that article, meaning they have the sole right to reproduce the work. Unless permission has been obtained from the journalist or the publisher, reproducing the article on a website or blog could be considered copyright infringement.

Giving credit where credit is due

An important point to consider is that copyright laws exist in part to ensure when someone views a work, they’re reasonably able to identify who the work belongs to or who created it. Individuals should not be able to pass off someone else’s work as their own. Sounds fair, right? Copyright law has an “attribution” requirement to help protect this from occurring.

Let’s look at our above scenario again.

If the REALTOR® used a hyperlink to the article and made sure the source and creator were clearly visible and identifiable to the viewer of the content, this would likely meet the attribution requirement. However, as noted, the permission issue still exists.

Are there any exceptions?

There are limited situations in which using the work of others without consent may be permissible. Some of these situations include “fair dealing” exceptions, which are listed in section 29 of the Copyright Act. These exceptions mainly relate to using copyrighted work for education, satire, or research purposes, among other things. The legislation may be complicated to interpret, so it’s always a good idea to consult a lawyer for advice or guidance.

How can you share content without infringing on copyright?

General tips on how to minimize the risk of copyright infringement include:

  • asking permission from the content creator to use their work; preferably in writing or via a contract;
  • summarizing the general concept of the content and adding your own thoughts and opinions, rather than simply reproducing the work word for word; and
  • using hyperlinks to direct your subscribers to the work instead of posting the content on your website, blog or within your newsletter. When using hyperlinks, make sure to include information about who owns the work – is it a news agency, an organization, or another REALTOR®?

Did you know: if you follow our tips, you can share articles you read here on CREA Café or our Living Room blog with your readers?

While copyright may not be the first thing you think of when reading an article, it should be the first thing you think of if you plan on reproducing any part of a work for your own purposes. Keeping this top of mind will hopefully save you the headache of dealing with a copyright infringement claim down the road.

The article above is for information purposes and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel.

Alim Jessa, CREA’s Legal Counsel, practiced as a litigator for several years. He now uses his experience interpreting contracts and legislation to provide CREA, boards, and associations with practical advice with respect to privacy laws, FINTRAC, and corporate governance. When he’s not working, Alim enjoys traveling, barbecuing, and spending time with family.

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