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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. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are things that could be equally far from the truth, but not further. Hmm, so the truth must be on the surface of a sphere, because there is a point at which it is impossible to get further away. Or it could be a truth-universe that curves back in on itself. The point is, 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 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).
  • Similarly, if you need to include more lengthy excerpts of one of our articles in order to criticize it, that’s also protected by Fair Use, as long as you wrap the excerpts in quotes and cite the source, and you don’t reproduce too much of the text.
  • 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. You don’t even need to name the website if you don’t want to, we know that “damn” isn’t appropriate classroom language (despite the fact that you mutter it under your breath daily).
  • 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 five or so people. Ten is right out.

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 parasite.

“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. We are certainly not required to explain the harms, but perhaps it will spare the decor:

  • If our content would interest your audience, that means you are our direct competitor, and it is indefensible for you to grow your audience (and shrink ours) using our hard work.
  • Whenever one of our works is republished as an article or podcast, it decreases the likelihood that a legitimate organization will pay us for reprinting rights, because the content is already out there.
  • If our writings appear in multiple places online, search engines punish us for having duplicated content.
  • 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 plagiaristic. If your intellectual property attorney told you differently, you would be wise to seek out an attorney who is not imaginary, they tend to give much more accurate legal advice.

“Oh yeah!?” you might bray like an annoyed mule, “We added jokes and snorts, so it’s a parody or satire or something.” A parody is like what “Weird Al” Yankovic does, putting new words to a familiar tune for the purpose of comedy. That is protected by Fair Use. In contrast, if you take the lyrics to another artist’s song and put your own music behind it, that’s a cover, and you cannot legally distribute it without permission from the author. And satire is the use of irony, mimicry, and/or hyperbole to criticize a person or practice. For instance, a Terms of Use page written in a sarcastic tone can be satire of dry legal documents. In summary, if you are merely changing the genre of an existing work—say, from a thoughtful history podcast into a podcast where a professional author reads other authors’ copyrighted works aloud to a fellow who seems genuinely funny but unaware of the egregious plagiarism occurring right in front of him—that’s neither parody nor satire.

“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, and you know it. 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.

“So what!?” you may counter, sneering with a breathtakingly undeserved sense of superiority, “I reject the concept of copyright!” That’s great, 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 plagiarism 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 02 May 2018

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