A Blogger’s Guide to Intellectual Property & Copyright
Note from Lana | Lifestyle Queen Bee: I’ve said this many times on my blog: as a blogger, there is so much more to it than just putting up some texts paired with pretty pictures. Just because you find a quote that speaks to you or a picture that pairs perfectly with your post, doesn’t mean it is free to use as you wish. Those words and those images belong to someone and unless specified that it can be freely used, you need to appropriately credit the owner if you use their work on your blog. If you don’t, you could find yourself in a world of trouble. Today’s guest post by regular contributor, Maurine Anderson, is breaking down intellectual property and copyright so you know the rules and can apply them to your blog to avoid an headaches down the road.
If you’re a blogger, then you understand how much time and effort goes into creating the wealth of content that people enjoy having within reach of their fingertips. You also probably understand the desire to be recognized for your work and to be respected by others in the blogging community. As nice it would be to say that everyone in the blogging community is respectful of the work of other bloggers, unfortunately, this is not the case. Plagiarism and copyright infringement abound.
The blogging world may seem like a realm where there is this open and free exchange of information and ideas, but intellectual property laws apply in the blogging world just as they do everywhere else. Here are a few things that you should know about navigating intellectual property and copyright laws as a blogger.
[ Short Quotations Are Usually Kosher ]
See something interesting in a book or on another person’s blog and want to quote it? That’s usually fine—as long as it is a short quotation. A short quotation is generally considered “fair use” under the Copyright Act, as long as it is used “for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research.” (That quotation there is a fair example, granted all government documents are considered public domain anyhow.)
[ Sharing Facts & Ideas Is Also Kosher ]
Facts and ideas cannot be copyrighted, so technically you are free to report any facts and ideas you glean from another person’s work. Keep in mind, though, that copyright law does protect the expression of these ideas—that is, the words used to convey them.
[ Not All Online Images Are Free Game ]
There seems to be this idea floating around in the blogging world that any image posted online is free to share and use—so long as you link back to the original source. However, a simple “shout out” or link-back in the caption does not negate copyright infringement. Anytime you want to use an image you found online for blogging purposes, you must do your research to determine if that usage is technically legal. If you want to post a photo from another blog, for example, you should read that blogger’s photo usage policy and follow it to a T—or contact the blogger if the blogger does not have a usage policy posted. This article has some great and detailed information about rules and etiquette when using copyrighted images online.
[ Most Music, TV Shows, & Movies Are Protected ]
In addition to images, you should know that most music, TV shows, and movies are protected under copyright law. This means that you should never share these materials on your blog. You may, however, embed authorized sharing widgets such as Spotify’s music widget onto your blog—but only if you know that the content being shared was uploaded legally. When in doubt, it’s simply best not to share music, TV show clips, and movie clips on your blog. Otherwise, you could end up being sued for copyright infringement.
[ Look For Creative Commons Guidelines ]
Often times content creators do want their work to be shared across the web. Creative Commons licenses make it possible for other people to do so legally. When trying to determine whether sharing something found online—say, an image—is legal, look for a Creative Commons license. If there is one (and there are several types of licenses), it will detail what the sharer must do in order to share that piece of work legally (link back, give attribution, use for personal use only, etc.)
[ When In Doubt, Ask For Permission ]
When in doubt about whether or not it’s kosher to publish something you found online on your blog, just ask for permission. Content creators often make it easy for you to contact them, so asking for permission is likely easier than you think.
This, of course, is only a primer, and if you should always consult a legal expert if you have specific, gray-area-type questions about intellectual property and copyright pertaining to your blog.
In the blogging community, it really is about respecting others in a way that you would like to be respected. So if you would like to share something such as an image from another person’s blog and then link it back to them, just ask. Other than that, make it a goal to produce as much original work as possible.
That’s why it’s your blog, right?
If you want to be a guest on the blog, send your post ideas to me via the Collabs page!