Can I Post a Published Poem to Facebook?

By David Koenig

Poems more than a century old are usually in the public domain.
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Facebook's "Notes" feature makes sharing text-based material easy. You can post articles, stories and poems that are too long to fit in a regular status update. Always make sure you have the right to republish the material you post, however. In the case of poems, you should consider carefully whether it is really yours to share.

Your Own Poem

You are free to publish any material you own. If you wrote the poem, you can post it to Facebook, upload it to another website or print it offline in any form. The exception is if you sold the poem; if you published a poem for a fee, and someone else bought the copyright, it is no longer yours to use.

Publishing Someone Else's Copyrighted Poem

In U.S. law, the creator of a literary work such as an essay, story or poem automatically owns the copyright; therefore, you can't copy it and publish it to Facebook without the author's permission. If you find a poem published somewhere else on the Web, assume it has a copyright unless it says otherwise. If a poem is in print, the copyright information is usually in the front of the book. If you post a copyrighted poem to Facebook without the copyright holder's permission, you are legally stealing.

Non-Copyrighted Poems

Some authors, especially on the Web, choose to make a poem publicly available for republishing. They may choose to use a Creative Commons license, which allows sharing within certain terms; if you don't make money from it, or if the purpose is educational, for example. They may release it to the "public domain," which means anyone is free to use, reuse and adapt it for any reason. Older poems are also in the public domain; 70 years from the date of the author's death is the usual expiration date for copyright.

How to Get Permission

Even if a poem is in copyright, you may be able to post it to Facebook with the author's permission. If you read the poem on the poet's website, send an email to the author and ask if you can put it on Facebook. Explain that only your Facebook friends will see it, and you won't be making money from it. The author may be happy to let you post it under these conditions.