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Using Our Content

We created this page because the unauthorized reuse and repurposing of our content has become a problem. We can understand how a large catalog of evergreen articles is a tempting target for naive or unscrupulous bloggers, podcasters, magazines, and the like, but this is the fruit of our long labor, and when others reuse it without permission or compensation—and sometimes without even attribution—it does us direct harm. It is also illegal per U.S. and international copyright laws.

Intent

We are not trying to stop people from sharing our writings with friends or colleagues via email, printouts, or that sort of thing. Far from it. Our primary motivations are to learn new things, hone our craft, and share what we have learned. But when others lazily repackage our work for their own gain—such as another site reposting our articles, or a podcast using our content as a script—it undermines the months of effort we put into every article we publish. In short, if you have anything resembling an “audience,” you need to gain our permission before you use our content.

Acceptable Uses

  • You are definitely allowed to share links to our articles. This can include an optional excerpt and/or image, as long as you link back to the original article. This falls under the Fair Use exception of copyright law, so we couldn’t stop you even if we wanted to (but we don’t want to).
  • If you are a school teacher you are free to share the content with your students as long as you do not post the content on the Internet or other place accessible to the general public. You don’t even need to name the website if you don’t want to, we know that “damn” isn’t always appropriate classroom language.
  • If you are using the text for a personal project—such as printing a copy for yourself or a friend, that’s totally fine as long as you don’t distribute it to more than 3-4 people.

If you want to share more than an excerpt, and none of the exceptions above apply to your intended use, we shall need to discuss it. We here at Damn Interesting reserve all rights to our works, but we do occasionally grant permission for reuse. If you seek such permission, send an email to webmaster@damninteresting.com with the details of the intended application. If you are a money-making enterprise we will expect to be offered some kind of reasonable compensation.

Unacceptable Uses

Apart from the above exceptions, you may not reuse substantial sections of any of our articles without permission. If you do so, we will become very annoyed and take action to make you stop being a jerk.

“B-but, Fair Use!” you may cry with exaggerated bluster, because you are like that. There, I said it. But, no, your intended use is probably not protected by the Fair Use exception of copyright law. If you are quoting a short excerpt from our text, or refuting the facts of the writing, or doing news journalism about the author or his/her work, or you are an educator in a classroom reading to students, then yes, Fair Use may apply if you unambiguously cite the source. And even then, you are not protected by Fair Use unless you make it clear when you are quoting directly from the original work.

“WAIT!” you may yell, arms flailing like meaty flagella. “How are you harmed if I read your article on my podcast or post the whole thing on my blog!?” Settle down, flappy bird. Not that we need to explain the harms, but perhaps it will spare the furniture:

  • If our content would interest your audience, that means you are our competitor, and it is indefensible to grow your audience (and potentially shrink ours) using our hard work.
  • When one of our works is republished as an article or podcast, it dramatically decreases the likelihood that a legitimate organization will pay us for reprinting rights, because the content is already disseminated.
  • If our writings appear in multiple places online, search engines punish us for having duplicated content.
  • It can unfairly harm our reputation because readers/listeners who see/hear your version first will probably assume that WE are the disgraceful parasites.
  • If a third party realizes that you are using our content without attribution, they may assume that they can do the same.
  • …and so on.

“Hey!” you may shout, eyes wide in exasperation, “I changed a few words, and added some remarks, so my use of the work is transformative!” You are really quite unpleasant when you get like this. And also wrong. You are probably grossly underestimating the degree of transformation required to make our work become “yours.” If a reasonable, impartial third party can detect that the two works are basically two different takes on the same text, it is not transformative, it is slightly less egregious plagiarism. If your intellectual property attorney told you differently, you would be wise to seek out an attorney who is not imaginary, they give much more accurate advice.

“Oh yeah!?” you might bray like an annoyed mule, “We added jokes and snorts, so it’s a parody or satire or something.” This is probably the least flimsy defense for reuse without permission, and in very narrow scenarios it may actually stand up. If you are criticizing the article itself—its composition, vocabulary, structure, claims, etc—not just its subject matter, you might be safe, assuming you made it quite obvious that it is based on another author’s work, and you provided a clear citation to the original. Parody and satire are protected by Fair Use when they are used as a vessel for criticizing the author or the work, not when they merely change the genre of the work. This is also why journalists can safely use lengthy quoted excerpts when reporting on the article itself or the author, but they would be plagiarizing if they pasted those same excerpts without quotation marks or citations.

“Well, guess what!” you may sputter, emitting a surprising quantity of spittle, “This is non-fiction, and you can’t copyright facts!” First, please keep your oral secretions to yourself. Second, facts cannot be copyrighted, that is true, but the words used to describe those facts absolutely can be. If you choose to tell one of the same true stories as we do, and you use your own words and story structure, that’s fine and dandy! However, if you are using our text without changing much, even if you are adding stuff, that is neither fine nor dandy. That is unethical copyright infringement at best, and illegal plagiarism at worst.

“So what!?” you may counter, sneering with a profoundly undeserved sense of superiority, “I reject the concept of copyright!” Good for you! Feel free to share your own works with the world. Do not feel free to share ours. Your sneers fall on deaf ears. One future day, if we become wealthy enough that we can afford to give our works away, we might embrace Creative Commons. We are not philosophically opposed to the concept, merely monetarily opposed. If that occurs we will update this page to say so.

In Closing

You might wonder what will occur if you go ahead and take our work without permission in spite of all this. First, we will probably draw attention to the infringement and demand for you to stop. Because, seriously, stop. If you have been particularly awful we may search the web for phrases from other articles/episodes on your site to discover the true authors of your other probable infringements, and notify those writers of the misuse of their material. This may seem slightly vindictive, but we authors must figuratively stick together. Failing all that, we will send Cease & Desist letters to the companies hosting the infringing content. Lastly, if no other avenue leads to a resolution, yes, we will probably hire an IP attorney, file a lawsuit, and seek damages. Litigation sucks, and there’s too much of it, but copyright infringement sucks, and there’s too much of it.

Go ahead, flail your arms in silence. By the way, we have consulted attorneys in the making of this page, but we are not attorneys ourselves, so none of this should be considered legal advice. Except for the flailing of arms part. Flail on, you crazy torso peninsulas.

Updated 04 September 2017

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