Why Rewriting Can Land You in Hot Water

Rewriting a published article in your own words is common among bloggers. But did you know it can land you in hot water?

Rewriting a published article is a pretty common practice among bloggers. You see a really cool topic and you want to share it with your readers, but you also need content for your own posts. So you write a new post that basically says everything that was said in the original article – but in your own words. Many bloggers attempt to be honest in doing this and they actually give credit to the original author, as well as a link back to the source.

The problem is, “rewriting” or “paraphrasing” an entire published work is copyright infringement. And if you fail to give credit to the author of the original work, it’s also plagiarism.

How Can Your Own Words Violate Copyrights?

Intellectual property can be difficult to understand. But what you need to know is that ideas, concepts, and research are just as much someone’s property as the words they use the communicate them. Paraphrasing a copyrighted work without permission is just as much of a violation as copying it word for word.

If You’re Allowed to Quote an Article, Why is Rewriting So Bad?

The reason that copying, distributing, or rewriting someone else’s work violates copyright is that you are replacing the original work with your own version. That robs the original author of the right – the copyright – to decide how his work will be used. In many cases, it can also rob that content creator of actual income.

You can quote from a published work because you’re only taking a small amount of the original work. That’s considered fair use if you provide the proper credit.

But you can’t take the whole of any copyrighted work and use it for your own purposes – not without permission. You also can’t take the heart of a protected work – like the core facts from an article on nutrition or the health benefits of specific foods. It doesn’t matter if you give credit. And it doesn’t matter if you put the work into your own words.

Would It Be OK if I Rewrote Your Novel in My Own Words?

What if you wrote a really successful novel – something on par with The Hunger Games or End of Watch or Inferno. And what if I totally rewrote the novel in my own words? I could change all the characters’ name and invent a new name for the place where the novel is set. And of course, I could tweak the scenes ever so slightly to make them seem different. But I’d really just be publishing a copy of your book, like a mirrored reflection but slightly out of phase.

Now what if my version of your story sold well too? And what if it caused sales of your book to drop? How would that make you feel? Well, you should feel violated. Because that’s exactly what rewriting is. It’s violating another person’s copyright – the right to control how an original work is used.

There are ways to share a copyrighted work without violating the creator’s rights. One option is to curate the original content. Another is to produce a new work that adds substantial value to the earlier work. I will look at how these things can be done in future articles. But for now, just remember that you should never attempt to copy the whole of any copyrighted article, even in your own words. You need to produce your own original content to be safe, and that means the bulk of your articles should be your own thoughts, words, and ideas.

Now that you learned why rewriting could violate copyrights, you might want to read how to write a hamburger paragraph. I have also written an article on how you could optimize your blog posts for social media.



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