I am considering writing a book. It would be a compilation of stories and techniques around a specific topic. I would like to be able to use people's posts to public forums and other social media platforms. An example might be someone's recipe or a post someone made telling a story about themselves. Can I reasonable expect that public forum content, if not otherwise copyrighted, is free to use? Do I need permission?
1 Answer from Attorneys
Any creative expression will be covered by copyright law automatically. Then you register the work with the US Copyright Office so to perfect your bundle of federal rights like the right to access the courts, the right to ask for statutory damages (sometimes the only damages worth bringing the case over), the right to attorney fees, etc.
Some things like recipes are not protected under copyright because they are just facts (1 part X; 2 parts Y). And if we are talking about very generic statements or remarks this too is likely not a copyright issue. But I assume a lot of what you plan on using will be protectable content where premission will be needed.
You also need to consider from where you acquire this content. Many platforms prohibit mining data through their terms, so this too can be an issue.
Before you commit to anything, I suggest that you consult with a lawyer in private and discuss your objectives in more detail. You can start by calling around to several for a free phone consultation, get some insights then pick the best fit to work with.
If you would like to discuss further over a free phone consult, feel free to contact me anytime that is convenient.
Our firm is now referred by the American Bar Association (see under the New York section): http://www.americanbar.org/groups/delivery_legal_services/resources/programs_to_help_those_with_moderate_income.html
DISCLAIMER: this is not intended to be specific legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. No attorney-client relationship is formed on the basis of this posting.
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