Reel Classics: the classic movie site

Notes from the Author

Building your own homepage?
Use proper Internet etiquette...

I frequently get emails from people who are building sites of their own and would like advice about how to go about it or permission to use some of the material from my site.  There is a special page for copyright issues related to Using Material from, but here are some more practical guidelines to keep in mind:

1. Always ask.

No matter whose page you are visiting or what the circumstances, you should always ask before taking any material from anyone else's site for use on your own.  Pictures, text, audio clips, anything.  Taking material without asking is not only very bad manners, it's plagiarism, and although in many instances, there is little the original owners can do to stop you, frequently the internet community into which you will wish to ingratiate yourself will instead ostracize you and refuse to link to your site.  Taking material without asking is a great way to make enemies quickly, so save yourself headaches later and don't do it.

2. Always give credit where credit is due.

Even if you've gotten permission from someone to use their material on your site, don't forget to give them proper credit.  Just because you have permission to use it, doesn't mean that all of a sudden it's become your material.  Linking back to the source site or providing an email link to the contributor are both good ways of crediting other sources.  Or, if your source was a book or magazine that can't be linked to, at least footnote where the material came from--title, author, date, etc.

3. Be original.

No one wants to visit a site that doesn't have any original content.  If all you do is take stuff (pictures especially) from other sites and rearrange it, you haven't contributed anything.  Why should people visit your site when everything you've got can be seen somewhere else?  So how to make your site original, especially when you're not sure you have much original content to add?  A few DOs and DON'Ts:

DO include your own opinions in your site, especially commentary about your favorites or why you like someone or don't like someone else.  Not everyone has the time or inclination to research and come up with authentic historical information that's not available elsewhere on the net, so if you fall into this category, make your site original by giving your perspective on things.

DO create a unique look for your site, including backgrounds, color schemes, fonts, etc.  Make your site easily identifiable so a visitor will be able to recognize it and say, "Oh, I've been here before."  Or, if you have different pages about multiple people or movies, make them similar enough that someone who finds your, say, John Wayne page, will go ahead and take a look because they remember what a good job you did on your Bette Davis page.

DON'T take benchmark logos or opening photos that are the identifying feature of someone else's site; in other words, don't use the same image at the first of your page that someone else does-- even if they reluctantly give you permission to use it. An opening image is part of what identifies one site as being different from another, and to use the same one as someone else is "bad manners"--for lack of a better term.  

Again, the key idea here is ORIGINAL CONTENT.  If you take material from other people's sites and don't add anything of your own, or if your site looks too much like someone else's, people won't want to visit it.  AND you won't get as many visitors because your fellow classic movie webmasters might refuse to link to you (especially if you've taken material without asking).  Thus, the traffic that could be generated from other related sites won't happen. That's fine if you don't care whether anyone sees your site or not, but then again, if that's the case, why bother to build a website to begin with? 

If you have questions or comments about these guidelines, please let me know.  And I'm happy to help people try to meet them as well.  If you have a site and you'd like to my advice on how to make sure it's unique, let me know the address and I'd be happy to check it out.

-- Elizabeth, November 9, 1999

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Last updated: March 10, 2011.
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