Buzzfeed and Copyright

Recently, Mark C. Marino, Assistant Professor of Writing at the University of Southern California, wrote a Buzzfeed article entitled 10 Reasons Professors Should Start Writing BuzzFeed Articles. Marino’s article received a lot of press, including a Chronicle of Higher Education post, on whether members of the academy should start writing on Buzzfeed instead of in academic journals.

Whether Buzzfeed is a substitute for scholarly journals is not a subject for the Scholarly Communications Office, but Marino does provide an opportunity to illuminate an important contract term: Buzzfeed allows writers to keep more rights under copyright than many academic journals. When you submit content to Buzzfeed, you grant Buzzfeed “a worldwide, non- exclusive, perpetual, royalty-free, fully paid, sublicensable [sic] and transferable license . . .” (emphasis added) Regardless of how you feel about Buzzfeed or its content, Buzzfeed does not require a complete copyright transfer that is common to academic journals. If an author posts the article on Buzzfeed, the author can use it in their classroom, put it on another website (like a course management system like Sakai or Blackboard), or in their university’s depository without receiving permission from Buzzfeed or determining whether a copyright exception, like fair use, may apply.

Compare Buzzfeed with academic journals. Oxford University Press requires an exclusive license, or a complete copyright transfer. APS Journals also requires a transfer of copyright, as does World Scientific Journals and AIP Publishing. Regardless of how you feel about academic scholarship on Buzzfeed, Buzzfeed allows the author to keep more rights than the previously mentioned academic journals do, and many others. These publishers may require that the author receive permission from the publisher to use their own writing in their classroom, put it on another website (like a course management system like Sakai), or in their university’s depository. You certainly don’t want to have to use a fair use exception to use your own article in your own class, do you? If you have any questions about this issue or any other, please come see us in the Scholarly Communications Office!