So, you find a really neat article on a topic that relates to your business and you want to share the find with your clients and visitors to your website.

Here’s a scenario I run into frequently with clients.

You’re not a thief, so you make sure that you give credit in the re-posting to the original author. You even link to the author’s page. You mark up the article a bit to emphasize what’s important to your clients, but the entire article — byline and all — is still there. You send the article to me to post to your website with some nice graphic.

I ask if you have permission from the author to copy their work.

You say that you’re acknowledging their authorship and that you’re just spreading their expertise and helping their reputation.

I ask if you have permission from the author to copy their work.

You ask if I can’t just put up the page. You’re sure no one will mind.

I ask you to confirm that you’re ready to indemnify me and to defend me at your cost for any copyright claims by third parties.

Let me confess that I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on television. However, I understand something about intellectual property rights and respect the right of creators to be able to determine where their work is shown.

By default, creative works, including Internet postings, are copyrighted by their creators and no one can use them without permission. The author or artist doesn’t have to do anything special to have copyright rights.

Permission to use someone’s work may be very easy to get. I have been emailed at least a couple of times by people wanting to copy an image on my personal website. The emails explained what the photos would used for and also told me that there would be a credit line but no money. I readily agreed to each request, flattered that someone liked my photography. I think my reaction is a typical one.

In the case of web article or blog entries a lot of authors would love to be considered an expert whose opinion is worth repeating. Re-posting their work with a link back to their website offers them exposure and a chance to sell their services.

Permission to copy is also sometimes granted on the website. Instead of saying nothing or “All Rights Reserved”, a copyright holder may choose to use a Creative Commons or other model copyright statement that specifies that people can re-use their work in some — or all — situations.

Copying from your friends (even those friends you’ve never met in person) expands the store of knowledge you can share with your clients. You look good for sharing valuable information. At the same time, the original author gains stature and potential clients for their own business.

Just make sure you say “Please” and get permission before you do the copying!