While checking out my site stats this morning, I discovered that someone found me by following a link from a site I’d never heard of before. As I’m always fascinated to find someone new who is linking to me, I went to check out the page that linked to me. After reading the first paragraph, it quickly became obvious to me that the author of the other blog had decided to repost my “panacea” post from March 2007.
Now, I’ll admit that I’m always delighted when someone finds value in something I wrote and wants to share it with other people. In many ways, it’s a great honor to discover that someone redistributed an entire post that I wrote. Granted, I’d be even more pleased if they linked back to my original post (this particular blogger linked back to my blog, which I appreciate), and then only quoted portions of my work on their site with their own commentary. After all, it’d be nice to know why they found my writings so valuable and added their own ideas to the mix. It’s that whole creative feedback process. But not everyone does that, and I understand. And perhaps there are those cases where reprinting the entire post makes sense, especially if the site doing the reprinting is a repository of articles on a similar theme.
One thing about such occurrences does bother me, however. That’s the fact that the the people who occasionally reprint my posts don’t contact me before doing so. As a rule, doing so is considered good manners and possibly even an ethical imperative. It might seem strange to some people, but there are some good reasons why you should always contact someone before reprinting something they’ve written (or even quoting parts of it):
1. It allows authors to track the impact their writing has.
Simply put, as a writer, I like to know what kind of audience my writing is getting. So if someone picks up one of my posts and says, “Hey this is so good, I want to share it with others,” I want to know about it! And if they repost it online, I want to be able to follow it there and see what kinds of responses it gets. Again, this goes back to that whole concept of feedback being part of the creative process.
2. It helps authors preserve their intellectual property rights.
Even bloggers have a right to “own” what they write, and it’s important that others respect those IP rights. Now, I personally tend to be rather generous about this sort of thing. It’s unlikely that I would ever deny someone the opportunity to quote or reprint something I wrote on my blog. I’d just ask them to acknowledge me as the author and link back to my blog (or otherwise give their readers a way to contact me). However, there are other bloggers who may feel differently. In fact, I remember a blogger who ran into a bit of a situation not too long ago. This particular blogger happens to be a freelance writer. A print newspaper picked up one of her posts and decided to print it in one of their issues. The problem with this is that this blogger had already planned on rewriting this particular post into an article that she planned to submit to various publications. The fact that the paper snatched up her blog post without talking to her created issues for her ability to modify and sell her own work. Fortunately, the paper who printed her post without permission was more than happy to compensate her for their error. But the point is, it’s important that you talk to someone before redistributing something they wrote to make sure you don’t create such problems for them.
3. It gives authors the opportunity to revise their work.
As much as I’d like to keep up this image of being this fantastic writer, I have to admit that some of my blog posts are not as well polished as they could be. This has led to one memorable occasion when I winced to find something I threw together somewhat quickly tucked into a repository of articles on another site. As I read it, I began to notice a number weaknesses in the post. Had the individual asked me for permission to include that particular post in their collection, I almost certainly would’ve offered to do a major rewrite first so that they would have a far better article to reprint.