Forums: User Submission Support: Submission Tips - Column #2 - Sourcing Your Material

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    [1]Feb 9, 2007
    • member since: 07/31/05
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    Sourcing Your Material (and using sources)

    First thing about sources. Don't copy from them. Ever. Per the Terms of Use, things you post at must be Your Content.

    If someone publishes something it is protected by copyright. Under U.S. law, copyright statements are not required to establish copyright protection.

    There are "fair use" exceptions to copyright, but when it comes to trivia, notes, biographies, summaries, and recaps, they do not apply to submissions. They are superseded by the Terms of Use requirement that you submit only Your Content.

    You can't copyright a fact, but you can copyright the creative effort involved in stating a fact.

    Non-Copyrightable Factual Statement: George Washington is right-handed.
    Copyrightable Factual Statement: George Washington, the first President and father of our country, did everything with his right hand.

    When in doubt, rewrite. Replacing a name with a pronoun or vice versa is not rewriting. Neither is adding a name to the beginning of a sentence fragment. Neither is rearranging sentences or changing a single comma or a word.

    Original Material: Was married to Sarah Smith from 1991 to 1992 and they divorced on friendly terms.
    Unacceptable Rewrite: He was married to Sarah Smith from 1991 to 1992, and they divorced on friendly terms.

    While facts can't be copyrighted, databases of facts are copyrighted. That's why dictionaries and quote collections have copyright. Taking a bunch of factual statements from another web site and resubmitting them at is a violation of copyright. (More on this in What About Quotes? below.)

    If you provide a video as a source, also please include the time code. Simply listing a 10-minute video as a source doesn't tell us where the fact or quote is.

    So what good are sources?

    Sources should be used to double-check what you write. Write what you know. Then look it up on the Internet and verify that you're correct.

    If you absolutely really don't know much about the person or show, do this:

    Look up something on the person. Read it. Then go back to the submission field, wait 30 seconds, and type it in your words. When you're done, verify what you typed is still correct, then submit it.

    (If you're writing larger entries like biographies and recaps, you're allowed to go back and check for every paragraph or so. ).

    The one thing you should never do when entering information is use the Copy/Paste functions. Cut/Paste/Rewrite almost always yields awkward and unreadable sentences as folks ignore grammar and punctuation to make it look original. Type from memory, type what you know.

    Original Material: Was married to Sarah Smith from 1991 to 1992 and they divorced on friendly terms.
    Unacceptable Rewrite: Sarah Smith and he married from 1992 to 1992 and on friendly terms they divorced.
    Acceptable Rewrite: Bob Smith and Sarah Smith married in 1991, and one year later divorced on amiable terms.

    How do I know if I'm "borrowing" something?

    After you write something, do a web search on any 6-10 consecutive words of what you write. That's what staff moderators do. If it comes up a match then we'll reject. In the rejection we'll usually include the chunk of text we found that was cut-n-pasted.

    Can I copy official biographies?

    No. Stars often release a biography to the public to use. However, still requires you to submit Your Content, not someone else's. We don't want to look like every other site on the web.

    What if I'm submitting my own biography?

    This rarely occurs. In this case it is Your Content (well, sometimes your publicist's content ), and is acceptable. However, reserves the right to make sure you're who you say you are before accepting.

    What if I wrote it on another site and want to submit it to

    Since it is almost impossible to verify you're the owner of the original material, please rewrite the material so that the biography, summary, trivia, recaps, etc., at are unique.

    What if I don't know how to rewrite?

    For one or two submissions, will probably try to help a bit. But if you're making enough submissions to try and become editor, then… well, knowing how to rewrite is the mark of a qualified editor. The 40 CP requirement is in place partly to make sure people who get that many CPs are qualified to edit and write original material.

    What sources are acceptable?

    Your best source is an official web site. Second best is a published magazine or book. However, anything with a verified author/source is good.

    A distant third is second-hand sources such as Wikipedia and IMDB. People post there anonymously and editorial review is much less stringent than at These should be used only as a secondary source, and always try to find another source first.

    Look at it this way: how do you know the person who posted it to got it right?

    Large well-established fan sites may be acceptable at staff's discretion.

    Regardless of your source, do not copy from them. See above about how to avoid cutting and pasting.

    What about quotes?

    Quotes are an exception to much of the above since they must be word-for-word accurate. Also, a star cannot typically copyright their public statements.

    You can cut-n-paste quotes for the purposes of accuracy. However, copyright still protects collections of quotes. Taking a batch of quotes from a quote site and cutting-and-pasting them to is a violation of that site's copyright.

    Interviews are copyrighted as they jointly belong to the interviewer and the actor, and are published on magazines and web sites. Taking an interview and cutting it up for several individual quotes is not allowed.

    Here's a good guideline: a single quote will almost never get you into trouble. The more quotes you submit from a single source, the more likely has to reject because of copyright issues. There is unfortunately no exact number that we can say "This is safe."

    Even if you go to several sites and cut-n-paste quotes from them, if a web search reveals they are also at a single site they are likely to be rejected. Check first with a search engine and save yourself the rejections.

    Yes, keeps track of submissions over multiple days. We'll notice if you break up a mass submission over several days.


    Next column: Know Your Capitals!


    Previous columns:

    Write Like You Talk
    Edited on 11/21/2007 1:57pm
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