Talk to Me: Copyrights and Reviews

We’re going to step away from the content discussions for today’s post, and look at something that’s related and super important. Copyrights and fair use when doing reviews. Copyright is something that you have to consider when doing reviews, and too many of us do not. It leads to trouble in some cases. Most of us think “it can never happen to me” but it can.  Unfortunately, using images and movie clips and such is a bit of a gray area. Reviews are one of the most protected forms of fair use, but you still need to be careful.

I’ve looked into this a few times, and even I’m not completely sure as to what is okay, and what’s not. So lets talk about it. I welcome your input.

Copyrights and Reviews

Here’s what I’ve found so far:

  1. Using images of book covers or movie covers. 
    1. It seems like this is okay, as long as you’re specifically using it for the purposes of a review. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t claim the artwork is yours or anything. However, it’s still not an entirely clear area, and if you’re posting a negative review, you may have reason to be a little leery.  I get nervous about this because I don’t use a typical ‘thumbnail’ of the covers (but what size, really, IS a thumbnail? If the image is not the exact size of the printed work, one could say its a thumbnail, right?)
      1. Still, what about things like using images in Top Ten Tuesdays and the like? Those are not really reviews. I think, though, it would fall under “Hey, free publicity!” and even negative publicity is still publicity.  You can perform a bit of extra CYA by making sure you link to sites where one can purchase the material (such as B&N, Amazon, etc.) [3][1]
        1. If you look down at the bottom of this site, beneath the FTC disclaimer footer, you’ll see an additional disclaimer. I’ve had this one up for a while. Every little bit, right?
  2. Using videos from youtube via embedding.
    1. Embedding is just a fancy way of linking. You’re not actually hosting the material on your server. You’re just providing a way for the person to view it without going to youtube. So, you should be okay, right? Seems like, as long as you’re using official trailers from official channels.
      1. Make sure it’s an official source, make sure you’re embedding. [2]
  3. Using Logos
    TTTBanner - Example of copyrights and reviews - logo

    Example of Coolthulhu

    1. This is one I have special interest in, as Coolthulhu is derived from H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu creation. However, I’ve done my research, and I’m 99% sure I’m in the clear here, for a couple of reasons.
      1. Lovecraft’s works, including the original work in which Cthulhu is mentioned, is considered to be public domain. Arkham House has raised a couple fits over this, but there doesn’t seem to be any hard evidence that they actually do retain copyrights. (It looks like they maybe weren’t renewed after the 28 year period.)
      2. Lovecraft apparently welcomed people playing in his sandbox.
      3. Coolthulhu is a derivation. I’m not claiming it’s Cthulhu, I’m not using any images produced by anyone other than myself. I’ve also altered the idea of the character in a recognizable fashion, by giving him a bandanna and sunglasses, and altering the name.
    1. Okay, I’m actually pretty unconcerned about this one. As long as you’re using a few lines and not massive chunks of text, you should be in the clear. (I still try to end all my quotes with the author and the title of the book, which may be overkill, but I’d rather over-kill it than have it spring back to life and bite me in the arse.)


What is public domain? The definition that I like best is from TechTarget, and states [4]

Public domain is a designation for content that is not protected by any copyright law or other restriction and may be freely copied, shared, altered and republished by anyone. The designation means, essentially, that the content belongs to the community at large. – TechTarget


So, what do you think? Do you have any sources that are more clear you might refer me to? Do you have any other information that might be handy in considering copyrights and reviews?

Sources for the copyrights and reviews discussion post:






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4 Responses to Talk to Me: Copyrights and Reviews

  1. This is so confusing! I remember being really worried about using photos of book covers when I first started my blog but now I just link them directly to Goodreads and I feel like that’s probably okay. I hope. Thanks for all this info! I wish I had more to send your way!

    Tracy @ Cornerfolds

    • Do you just copy/paste the cover from Goodreads? Or do you download it from there, upload it, then link it?

      If you copy/paste, have you ran a speed test on your site? Multiple external links can really add up and slow your site down. :/

  2. Kenia says:

    I’m really impressed with your writing skills as well as with the layout on your blog. Is this a paid theme or did you modify it yourself? Either way keep up the nice quality writing, it’s rare to see a great blog like this one these days..

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  • I love Audible. Tons of books, fantastic narrators, good prices.