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Can use of original content for a review violate your copyright?

When you published a photograph, short story or original song, you have copyright in general protections for that creation. Your copyright means that no one else can reproduce or distribute your original work without your express permission.

However, there are certain scenarios where other people can use, sample or otherwise share your work without your permission or without compensating you. Certain practices fall under the doctrine of fair use, including parodies of culturally relevant works.

Another reason that someone else could share or distribute part of your original work is critical review. Is it possible for someone’s review to violate your copyright?

Certain review practices could violate your intellectual property rights

You generally will have a hard time prohibiting the use of small excerpts, samples or quotes from your original work for criticism and review purposes. Some creatives do include written restrictions in their copyright notice advising others that they do not allow for unauthorized quotations for review purposes. However, it may be difficult to enforce such a blanket prohibition in court. Allowing citations for reviews can possibly even drive interest in your works.

On the other hand, reviewers might try to take advantage of the perceived copyright loophole they have for personal gain, which could affect your revenue. Republishing the work in its entirety under the excuse of making a reaction video, for example, might allow a reviewer or critic to financially profit off of monetized content based on your original work.

The larger the sample and the more immediate the connection between the critic or reviewer’s financial gain and your work, the more likely it is that their review may fall outside of the protections of fair use.

Asserting your copyright early and consistently is best

Discovering that someone else has republished the original work or tried to make money off of your original content is frustrating. Rather than just feeling upset, the better response will likely be to take action to assert your rights and stop the behavior that might impact your revenue or career success.

Formally copyrighting something previously covered by a copyright in general may be a smart move if copyright enforcement actions are in your future. When you understand your rights and how others might violate them, it is easier to stand up for yourself and your creations.