We frequently come across exciting pieces of content, whether in books or over the internet. Scholars often borrow ideas from the previous text to support their arguments. In the process, you may want to lift a few paragraphs from the book or article you’re reading and add them to your work. In that case, you may be forced to rewrite it. But is rewriting illegal?
Let’s answer the question and explore how you can go about rewriting without infringing on copyrights.
Is Rewriting Illegal?
Rewriting is illegal if it targets copyrighted content. You may need to request permission to copy text from another book or article even when you use your own words. Still, when there is no violation of copyright, you should avoid distributing and marketing rewritten content as your own.
Often, scholars overcome the challenge of violation of copyright by citing original authors.
We recommend that you give credit to all authors whose content you paraphrase.
It is also illegal to rewrite an entire book. Copyright laws are designed to protect the creativity of authors.
If you rewrite another author’s work in its entirety, it would be considered a derivative work lacking meaningful creativity.
Can You Rewrite Your Own Text?
If you’re the author of a book or article, you retain copyright to the publication and can do anything with it.
This is how we usually end up with multiple editions of a book.
Rewriting can include new content that was previously missing. It can also help authors to eliminate inaccuracies that might have been in the initial text.
So, yes, you can rewrite your own book or article without any problem.
For something to be protected through copyright, it has to be tangible and a creative piece, for example, is a novel or a website page.
Illegal Rewriting Examples
Rewriting someone else’s work without their explicit permission is considered a copyright violation.
Spinning a copyrighted journal article will run afoul of copyright laws.
Making slight changes to a text will also constitute copyright infringement.
Taking someone else’s concepts or ideas and writing them as your own is a copyright infringement.
Whether or not your rewriting is seen as a violation of copyright laws depends on how closely you copied the text and if you were permitted to do so by the original author.
Fair Use Exception
You’re probably familiar with the phrase “fair use.”
It is an exception that allows writers to use copyrighted material main for educational and scholarly purposes. Other reasons could be included as well. An example is a business that could rewrite another business’ article in a manner that suggests parody and does not infringe on the authors’ rights.
Another good case example would be a tutor using an excerpt from a book to help his students prepare for a test.
The only problem that disqualifies a practice from being fair use is if you make a profit out of the rewritten content. In that sense, it would be illegal. You will not be protected by the fair use policy.
Other Moments When Rewriting is Legal
Rewriting may be allowed is when dealing with legal briefs and contracts or similar items.
General knowledge such as “there are 8 planets in our solar system” are often excluded from copyright protection.
Holy books such as Quran and the Bible are also rewritten without infringing.
Constitutions also fall in this category because some countries have already copied laws from each other to address certain societal problems.
Non-copyrighted Items that You can Rewrite
When dealing with a majority of copyrighted works, the authors enjoy a certain period of protection.
Authors usually have their living years and 70 years after their death when you cannot use copyrighted material. After that period has elapsed, the publication will be in the public domain. Therefore, you can rewrite it without facing any legal restrictions.
Even though you may be allowed to rewrite a piece of text whose copyright protection has elapsed, it will still be considered plagiarism. This is the reason for the existence of a Creative Commons license.
Giving credit to original authors is recommended in the scholarly field.