Copyright rules do extend to the internet. Maybe you knew this, maybe not. Either way, there are rules that you should make yourself aware of. Especially if you consider one main aspect… The internet has changed the way in which we view, share and create content. I mean, we all know that, but legally speaking – it’s a big deal. A lot of what is on the internet today comes from an endless variety of sources. Any given web page could have text, graphics, sound and other images that all come from independent sources. It’s easy to think that all of this content out there is readily available to use whatever way we want to. However, this just isn’t the case. And the ramifications of  not following simple copyright rules can get you into trouble.

Copyright Laws Every Blogger Should Know

More often than not bloggers take content from others without any permission or credit given. It’s a sad reality that, but in all seriousness, is often considered theft. Now most bloggers mean well whenever they share content, but it’s important to shine a light on what is really happening here. Because there are legal rules for whenever you use text and images from other authors. Therefore it’s important to stay informed about the best blogging and copyright practices. And you should stick to them as a hard and fast rule. That’s why today we’re going to focus on how to keep your blog legally safe. While still allowing your creativity to flourish.

So, why does it even matter?

Cause it does. It’s important to understand that copyright laws were not established to give authors the right to deny their work, but instead, to encourage creation. The creation of material, both written or graphic, is actually in the public’s interest. Therefore copyright laws create a balance between what the author/creator feels is just and what is in the public’s interest. However, there is some good news in all of this. The law has a tendency to lean a little on the side of the public. Especially when it comes to any grey areas.

What does copyright law include?

Since the main purpose of copyright law is to protect original works of authorship, it includes literary, written, artistic, photographs, etc. In other words, if it is something you can print or record, it is typically under the law. It’s important to understand that copyright exists the moment you create something. Therefore the second you take that picture, start painting or writing it is copyrighted. The author doesn’t even have to register the work in order to make it protected. It just is!

Let’s go ahead and see what some legal issues you might run into as a blogger.

  1. Copyright Legal Issues – Copyright laws protect the original creator of a work. For example, you can’t republish another person’s blog post and claim it as your own.
  2. Trademark Legal Issues – Trademarks are issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. They include company names, product names, brand names, and logos.
  3. Libel – You cannot publish false information about anyone or anything that could negatively affect that person or item on your public blog.
  4. Privacy – Whenever you capture private information about visitors to your blog you cannot share or sell that information to a third party without permission from each person. Data collected from visitors must be disclosed. Most bloggers provide a Privacy Policy on their blogs to explain how data is used.

WHAT IS COPYRIGHT PROTECTION

A copyright owner has four distinct, or exclusive ‘rights’. They are the right to:

  • Reproduce the copyrighted work
  • Perform and/or display the copyrighted work publicly
  • Prepare derivative works based on the copyrighted work
  • Distribute copies of the copyrighted work to the public by sale, rental, lease, or lending

Alright, so what can you use?

Now that we know what the actual rights of the author are in regards to their material, what can we do with another person’s material? This question refers to what is known as ‘Fair Use’. In order to determine what is fair use, a court takes into consideration four things. Which are actually completely unrelated to the preceding four rights. The four concerns of fair use* are:

  1. Purpose
    What will you use it for? This allows use for things such as educational, research, non-profit and trans-formative work. Which uses pieces of something to create a unique end product. However, if it is for commercial use or for entertainment purposes (i.e. for profit) you need to get permission.
  2. Nature of the work
    Is the nature of the work fact based? Has it been published before? If so, you should be fine. However, if it is a work of fiction, or it isn’t published – you need to seek permission.
  3. Amount used
    If the amount used is small or less significant, it ranks in your favor. But if you are use a large amount, or copy the core purpose of the work – it is necessary to seek permission.
  4. Effect of use on the market
    If your use of the material would not effect the market, or if it is not possible to obtain permission, you’re on the right track.  Therefore if your use is long term, or has a major impact on the market – you need to look for permission.

Source:  17 USC Section 107

*Please remember that these considerations are interrelated. Not independent of each other. You must consider all four issues on any copyrighted item.

HOW TO GIVE PROPER CREDIT

Let’s say you found some information that you want to use and you feel as though you’re within all the parameters of legality. However if you want/need to cite your source you need to be able to give proper credit to the original author(s). This is called attribution. The main goal is to let the readers know that this information is actually someone else’s. And whether or not you made any changes to it. You want the reader to be able to head straight to the source for that information. It makes it a lot easier for your readers to clearly see what is YOUR content and what isn’t. It’s pretty much a clear distinction that will keep you out of trouble down the road. But it is a distinction that is necessary.

Below you’ll find the four components of attribution along with an example of the following post:

The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them. – Ernest Hemmingway

  1. Title – Ernest Hemmingway quote
  2. Author – Ernest Hemmingway
  3. Source – https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/e/ernesthemi383691.html
  4. License – If license is owned or granted, state it.

This would be a legal way to display this on a web page:

The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.
Ernest Hemmingway Ernest Hemmingway Quote, Source: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/e/ernesthemi383691.html

Quotes and content are just one aspect of copyright law that you should know about in terms of blogging. Another aspect are pictures. Any great website or blog post uses pictures. And with that in mind you need to know the law. If you take your own photos and use them, you won’t have any issue at all. Except maybe someone using your photos. But that’s another blog post. However, if you are using someone else’s photos there are a few things you need to take into consideration.

HOW TO USE PHOTOS (THAT AREN’T YOURS)

It is almost impossible to create a web page of  quality without using pictures. And you aren’t the first person who’s wanted to copy an image from another website and use it for yourself. Just be aware that there are guidelines and stick to them.

  1. Fair Use and Attribution
    All the same rules apply: Purpose, nature, amount, and market effect (see above). However, ‘fair use’ has nothing to do with ‘attribution’. Even if you attribute the source but violate fair use, you would be in the wrong.
  2. Licenses
    1. Royalty-Free – A user pays a one-time fee but may *typically* use the image multiple times.
    2. Rights-Managed – The user pays fee for each time they use the image. Every. Single. Time.
    3. Free for commercial use – More commonly know as ‘public domain’. These images have no copyrights or rights reserved so they’re pretty much free to use! This is really the easiest and cheapest way to use images online that aren’t your own. You can easily do a Google search for these types of images. All you need to do  is use the ‘search tools’ and change your search to ‘labeled for reuse’.

images labeled for reuse in google

Whenever you decide on the type of license you need to make sure that you are aware of all that entails. Whether it’s royalty-free, rights managed or free for commercial use. Honestly, most people like the sound of ‘free’, so the last one is your best bet. Especially if you don’t have the time or desire to take your own photos.

So now you know the legal way in which to go about things in terms of photos and copyrights.Now you can go ahead and get started – the right way. The trick is to make sure that you follow the rules. Which is pretty easy when you think about it – as long as you know where to go. Now go ahead and create the next killer blog post!

But you need to be aware of where you get your content from and always credit sources and filter selections. You should really do this because you’ll avoid any legal issues down the road. Below you’ll find some great places where you can start:

  1. Public Domain
  2. Creative Common Search
  3. Free For Commercial Use

3 LAWS EVERY BLOGGER SHOULD KNOW & FOLLOW

Outside of photos, there are other instances in which many bloggers will come across at some point or another. Therefore it’s important to know and follow these 3 laws found below. Because it will help you stay out of trouble. Which is something that should be on the top of your priorities list. No one wants to deal with legal ramifications. Instead, go ahead and familiarize yourself with these laws and stick to them.

Law #1 – Paid Endorsements

One of the most important developments in terms of blogs, is when it comes to U.S. law is that bloggers must be honest if they are paid to use, promote, or review a product. So how open and honest do you need to be?

  • Label Information Clearly – Wherever you have content, make it 100% clear which information is editorial and which is advertising.
  • Be Honest About Affiliate Relationships: This means you need to label links that go  to your Amazon affiliates.
  • Don’t Claim to be an Objective third-party When You’re Not: You should always explain your relationship with a company when you are talking about them.

Law # 2 – Stolen Content

If you create incredible content, at some point somebody will use it on their site. Most of the time this is done without the person knowing the law. And who knows, they may even give you credit and link back to your website.

If you want to protect your work, you should simply send them an email and let them know that what they are doing is called copyright infringement. It’s fairly easy to discourage someone who takes our content – especially if there is a copyright symbol on the footer on your website.

Law # 3 – User Developed Content

When it comes to reviews, comments or copy on message boards, you don’t own that content: the original author owns it. A good way to deal with this issue is to make it clear how you manage user developed content. For example, you should focus on a few things that you:

  • are at liberty to do with the comments as you please.
  • will not manipulate them or delete them without having a good reason to.
  • can remove them if someone requests (this is really up to you).
  • require a minimum amount of information so you can avoid anonymous comments.
  • will delete all comments if and when you expire your blog.

Once you openly (and clearly) state those terms above, you shouldn’t have any problems.

As you can see the law is pretty straightforward when it comes to blogosphere and it’s rules. Hopefully this has shone a light on the seriousness of blogging. Again, just follow the rules, and keep the laws in mind . If you do this your chances of trouble are pretty slim. Do you already know any of the laws stated above? Which ones didn’t you know about? Do you practice any of these laws on your blog? Let us know in the comments below, so we can discuss!

Be sure to check out a few blogging related posts:

After You Publish – the Ultimate Blog Post Checklist

The Best SEO Tips for Bloggers