If you’re interested in utilizing third-party content on your blog or social media accounts, it is imperative that you understand the proper way to repost, excerpt, modify and link to content. By properly doing these things, you can improve your own content, promote the content of others and greatly minimize any risk of legal liability in regards to your online activities.

The Third-Party Content Golden Rules

There are two “Golden Rules” when it comes to third-party content: 1) you cannot republish copyrighted content without permission and 2) you cannot claim or imply that copyrighted content created and/or owned by a third party was created by or belongs to you. As a reputable professional, you already understand that it is both unethical and illegal to plagiarize content. When all publicly-accessible content on the Internet can be found in minutes or even seconds with a simple search engine query, it may even be shocking that people continue to intentionally plagiarize content online.

How to Avoid Copyright Infringement

Before you understand how to avoid copyright infringement, learn what is protected by copyright. It is important to know that copyright infringement does not pertain to ideas, only expressions of that idea. If you violate copyright infringement law, then you may get sued. Though there is no way to completely protect yourself from getting sued, because some lawsuits can be filed and considered unwarranted. However, there are a few ways you can lower the likelihood of copyright infringement punishment:

  1. Never copy anything
  2. Retrain licensing agreements
  3. Assume that all material is copyrighted
  4. Seek the permission of the owner before any use
  5. Talk to your lawyer

Unintentionally Reposting

Many bloggers and social media users, including both amateurs and professionals, sometimes unintentionally reprint copyrighted content or accidentally imply that they are the authors or creators of third-party content. Even if you do not intentionally misuse the work of others, there still may be serious repercussions for unintentional misuses; it is important to therefore learn the rules before you begin utilizing third-party content.

The Common Sense Test

The easiest and most practical way to determine if you are improperly reprinting the copyrighted work is to step back, view your blog or social media post with fresh eyes, and ask yourself, “Does it appear as though I am the author and/or source of this work, or is it clear that it belongs to a third party”? A majority of unintentional problems with reposting third-party content can be avoided by simply applying this test before hitting the “send” or “post” button. This test doesn’t apply to work entirely reposted or reprinted by you – even if you properly attribute the work to the author, you cannot reprint works in their entirety without expressed written permission from the copyright holder. However, if you repost an excerpt from the work, or post a link to the content, it is important to ensure that you are not confusing your readers or followers as to who wrote or owns the work in question.

Reposting Entire Articles And Visual Content

There are very few instances where reprinting an entire article or blog post is practical or desirable. If the content is available somewhere else online, reposting the content – even with permission – is redundant and can hurt both your blog’s SEO rankings and the rankings of the original source. Also, why would your readers want to read an entire block of third-party content on your blog? It is important to remember that copyright covers not just writing but photographs, illustrations, cartoons and video. You cannot simply repost a newspaper cartoon or photograph to your blog because you enjoyed the work in question and want to share it with your readers – you either must obtain permission of the copyright holder or use it in a way that falls under the doctrine of Fair Use.

How Much To Use

If you are posting an excerpt of a creative work, be sure to use an acceptable portion of the content and be sure to properly identify and attribute the original author of the work. For most written content, don’t use more than two paragraphs of the original work. Be sure to visually set the excerpted content apart from your own writing, which can be easily achieved with “quote” formatting in WordPress. And, as always, provide a link or acknowledgement to the original source of the material.

Third-Party Content And Social Media

As with your blog, the common sense test should be applied to social media as well – will your followers immediately know that the content your posting belongs to a third party, or will they mistakenly believe it’s your own original work? Facebook “sharing” clearly demonstrates to your friends or followers that the post in question was posted by another Facebook user, but attribution is sometimes murky or lost entirely on Twitter, where the 140 character limit applies to each tweet and retweet.

Be Careful When Retweeting

On Twitter, it is standard practice to indicate that you are retweeting content, either by utilizing Twitter’s own built-in retweet button or by preceding the tweet with the acronym “RT” for “ReTweet” and the username of the original author. If you are forced to modify the retweet because of Twitter’s 140 character limit, indicate this by utilizing the acronym “MT” for “Modified Tweet” instead of “RT”. It is never acceptable on Twitter to omit an attribution of a retweet to the original Twitter user – even if you feel it is impossible to do because of the character limit – because other Twitter users will assume it is an original tweet rather than a retweet. If you simply cannot provide a proper attribution, include a link to the original tweet rather than retweeting the content.


Now that you know the basics of Copyright Laws and how to properly use third-party content, you are free to utilize the internet to further your goals, whether they be personal or professional. Just make sure to always properly attribute your third-party content, whether it be text, images or video!