Standards about “fair” excerpting of online content are still evolving, and different sites have different policies. Recent high-profile cases like GateHouse suing the New York Times and the Chicago Reader blasting Huffington Post have brought the issue front and centre. (Brian Stelter discusses the issue in today’s New York Times.)
Based on our experience as readers, writers, and editors, we think that fair online excerpting is–and should be–viewed differently than “fair use” in offline media. Specifically, we think that as publishers recognise the value of having their content quoted, debated, discussed, and linked to throughout the blogosphere, they become less concerned about the number of words or paragraphs in any particular excerpt. (We certainly have.)
As far as we can tell, the vast majority of publishers already feel this way. We have been publishing for 20 months now–more than 25,000 posts–and we have been asked to shorten excerpts only twice. (We did so immediately.) Over the same period, we have received hundreds of notes from publishers and writers thanking us for excerpting and linking to them, and we get dozens of notes every day from publishers who hope we will do so. Similarly, we have had our own stuff excerpted very liberally, by thousands of sites, and only in the egregious case described below–the automatic republishing of our entire, full-text RSS feed–have we kicked up a fuss.
All this said, a few publishers are still focused on word count, so it makes sense to discuss this publicly.
Our Current Policy
Importantly, at The Business Insider, we don’t just want to do what’s “fair.” We want to do what’s right. Specifically, we want other sites and authors to be happy we excerpted and linked to their stuff.
With that in mind, here is our current policy:
We excerpt others the way we hope others will excerpt us.
What does that mean? It means that if you think our stuff is worth bringing to your readers’ attention, we are honored and grateful. Please excerpt it as liberally as you want. In return, please just give us clear credit, links back, and an incentive for interested readers to visit our site. (Not all readers–some.)
To be clear: As long as you give us credit and links, we are not particularly concerned with the length of the excerpt. Frankly, we’d rather have your readers read our words than your summary of our words, and we see no reason why you should waste your time re-writing something that we’ve already tried to say clearly. (If we’ve garbled it, by all means…) If you occasionally feel you need to run our whole post to make the point, go ahead and run it. Just consider adding a “Related” link to another of our stories so some of your readers might come and check us out.
One important exception to the above is publishers who habitually run our entire posts with no additional commentary or links back–or, worse, just simply publish our entire RSS feed. We’re not cool with that, so stop.
Excerpting standards are still evolving, so fairness is still very much in the eye of the beholder. If you think we have excerpted too much of your stuff or have been stingy with links or credit, tell us, and we’ll change it immediately.
Henry Blodget, Editor In Chief