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What Every Blogger Should Know about Copyright Infringement

don't be this dude

Recently I got a notification (pingback) that one of my posts had been linked to.  Score! Right?  I mean, links are to bloggers like nuts are to squirrels. We scurry around doing everything we can to store up links in the ol Google Tree.  The more the better!

I’d never heard of this other blog so I follow the link from my WordPress Dashboard to check it out.  What do I see?  My content front and center on this other site.  And my heart sank because I wasn’t ok with it.

“But Heather,” you say, “you just said links are good!”

I know, I know I did… hear me out till the end and it will all make sense.

What is Copyright Infringement?

Now.  I’m not a copyright lawyer.  I don’t even pretend to be an expert.  But what I do know is that it’s not cool to take something that somebody else created, wrote, designed, drew, made etc, without their permission.  The person who created the material has the right to say who can and cannot use that content.  Obviously I’m being very general here and there are many ins and outs and loopholes I’m sure.  But that’s the golden rule.  If you don’t ask permission and get an OK then don’t re-post, re-create, or re-print.  You don’t have the rights.

If everyone followed this golden rule then I’m sure half of the Internet wouldn’t exist.  The Internet was designed specifically for the purposes of sharing information.  It screams out that content be shared…that’s what makes the Internet special isn’t it?

So we’re at a bit of a crossroads here.  Copyright law says ‘Don’t Take the Content!’ and Bloggers everywhere like myself are doing just that.  Every time we see something awesome, we want to share it and we post it up on our blogs so our readers can appreciate the awesomeness of it.

So, how do we share content and make sure we’re not crossing any lines?  Setting laws aside (remember I’m no lawyer) there are some general etiquette guidelines that will help keep you out of hot water.

Bloggers Guidelines for Content Sharing

1) – Ask. Like the old saying goes…it never hurts. Send an email.  A tweet.  Write on their Facebook Wall.  It doesn’t have to be complicated, just say ‘can I share this on my blog?’  You’d be surprised how most people are flattered by the request and will grant you the OK.

2) – Whenever possible, do not copy any content to your blog post – just link to it.  In a perfect world, the people who create great content get the rewards.  In Internet terms: Rewards = Traffic.  Driving traffic to those who created the original content is the goal.  If you want to reward someone and at the same time, share the content with your readership then a simple link will do.  Don’t worry about all your readers leaving you for the blogger you’re linking to.  Continue to put great content in front of them and they will keep coming to you for it.

3) – If you MUST copy / paste content then ensure you’re only using an excerpt (put quotation marks around it) and then provide a link to the remainder of the content.  Still, the aim here is to send your readers to the copyright holders site to consume the content.

4) – When using a photo always cite the source / copyright holder and link to them. (this is what the person who linked to my post did and I’ll tell you in a bit why I still wasn’t ok with it and what I would have preferred.)

5) – Whenever possible, reduce the photo to a thumbnail so readers need to click over to the creators site to consume the whole image.  You can put ‘click to enlarge’ or some other text to help your visitors know what to do.

6) – Do not take someone’s image and alter it (by alter, I mean: write on it, crop out important parts, mess with colors.)  You didn’t create it, you don’t get to change it.

7) – Do not take someone’s words and edit them.  If you add or remove words you can change the tone or message of the original work.  That’s bad.

8 ) – Do not post the content in it’s entirety.  This stands for recipes too.  It’s not cool to pick up a Paula Deen Cookbook and throw one of her recipes up on your blog word for word.

 

Know that even though you follow all these guidelines you could still get in trouble if you didn’t ask permission and the creator wants to cause a fuss.  Even if you remove the material from your blog – you are still in trouble because the violation occurred when you posted the content…it doesn’t matter if it’s not there anymore.

However, most bloggers want their content linked to and most bloggers want you to direct  readers to their sites to consume their content.  It’s sort of the whole point of blogging but sometimes relying on people to be reasonable is too much to ask.

Here is an example of a post where I used other peoples photos.  I make it clear that I did not create the photos.  The content is a tutorial or item for sale and I direct readers to visit the copyright holders sites to get all the info.  If I was them, this is what I would want to have happen. I followed all the guidelines but if someone wanted to cause a stink, I suppose they could.

What prompted this Post

This is the image that I found on that other site -

Cat Fur Furniture

It’s nothing special – just a photo.  However, what made me ask for the blogger to remove it was that the words I’d written on top of the photo made it somewhat funny.  The words PLUS the image combined were my content…there was nothing else.  Just because the offending blogger linked to me didn’t mean anyone had to visit my blog to view the content.  It was already right there on his blog, without my permission by way of copyright infringement.  This particular image was doing well in social media and I didn’t want that traffic getting diverted to a blog that didn’t have my ok to share the content.

I contacted the blogger and asked him to remove it and he did without hesitation (and with sincere apology.)  No harm done.

 

Learn More About Copyright Infringement

What is Copyright Infringement? - Copyright Explained

Copyright Law -  12 Dos and Dont’s

Comments

  1. The only images I freely borrow are book covers, which I feel is OK because people are trying to promote their books. Otherwise I would get permission, although I seldom use other images besides the ones Lana takes here. As for content, I always just include a link, or maybe a sentence or two excerpt at most.

    • Heather says:

      I’m not 100% sure but I think book covers fall under ‘fair usage’ rules…I mean, Amazon encourages everyone to share cover images for it’s affiliate program. I’d think they have people who look into that kind of thing ;)

  2. This post is SO important, Heather! I know exactly what you mean by wanting people to share your stuff, but also allowing you to get the credit and, therefore, the traffic from it. So glad you posted this.

    Love the pic, by the way. Hilarious!

    Darlene

  3. Great post Heather. I always try to use free stock photos and follow the rules for attribution. However, with public images like those of celebrities and stuff that are plastered all over the Internet, I have used without linking, because there is no way to know where the image originated from when there are hundreds of copies. I can only think of a handful of times I have used someone else’s photo and I have always used it in conjunction with linking to something like a tutorial on their site so that the content was not on my own.

    • Ditto — if just writing a post, then I use my own photos or free stock images.

      If I’m sharing the links of tutorials, etc., I use the writer’s photo, resized to be smaller, and then link it to their tutorial … and make sure that everyone knows (1) it’s not my photo, (2) it’s not my tutorial; I just like it, and (3) they need to click on the image link to view the original content.

      Although, now after reading this, I’m paranoid!

      I’ve had my own content stolen — in the form of recipes. And I HATE when that happens. I mean, word for word, copied and pasted on another person’s site … with a brief mention (not always a link) that they got it from me. The worst of it is that it’s someone I know doing it. Sigh. . .

  4. This is a great post you put together. I wish everyone understand about copyright. I actually tried explaining it to my own sister and she just looked at me like I was CRAZY. She thought if she found a photo on-line and changed it that it was then hers.

  5. Great post! Do you think it’s okay to post a picture of food with a link to the site where the recipe is? I did this recently and wondered if I shouldn’t use their picture, but it was linking to them for the actual recipe so I thought it was okay.

    • Technically you need to ask to use a photo that’s not yours but I don’t think many people would be unreasonable about you using it to link to their recipe. There’s always that 1% of the population that over react though!

  6. I guess my content isn’t that good since I haven’t had this happen to me yet! ;)

  7. I am paranoid too now, LOL! I always try to use my own photos, but when I don’t I use morguefiles.com. They say you can use their pictures and you don’t have to link back or anything, but I do, sometimes anyways. Great post!

  8. Excellent post. I’ve had people ask me why I bother providing attributions on creative commons images on Flickr. After all, the likelihood of the owner finding you is slim, right?

    That’s not the point. Someone else put the effort into creating and uploading the image. If I’m going to use an image, even under a creative commons license, the least I can do is tip the hat to the person who made it possible.

    Thanks for the post, Heather!

    Lee

  9. Great post! Asking permission isn’t difficult. A simple email will get you an answer! I use Google to search certain words to see if my stuff has been copied. Not sure how it works, but I sure hope it’s really good. =) BTW that is a cute photo!

  10. Holy cow I didnt know that happened. This was great info.

  11. Great post. Informative for those who don’t know. I’ve gotten a little lazy with basic photos but I do include all information and link. I’ve gotten lazy because I’ve emailed and contacted people and never received a response. After taking the time each time to make contact and not getting a response I’ve taken that for granted. There was a time a contacted a site/artist/photographer (don’t remember which), they checked out the post and only asked for a change in the attribution. Most times people are very accommodating and friendly.

  12. This was a very informative post. Thank you for sharing all this information.

  13. Thanks. I needed this information. I am trying to find the right balance. I use excerpts (clearly marked) with obvious links back to the original source. Photos are usually links back to the source, too.

    When I started (on a different blog) I did send out requests, but only one person responded with any response at all (yes or no). Obviously, I need to go back to sending out requests.

    Actually I can see a benefit in sending requests (aside from the fact that it is the right thing to do). Many people who would respond to the requests would look at your website, so you might be increasing traffic.

    I am not even worried about traffic right now because I want to get it right first. But I thought I would mention it.

    One question: what about services like Scoop-it? I use this. In collecting my links to share, the service automatically picks a picture if there is one. (Truth is, this is the default. You can turn if off, but the pictures make the scoop-it page a lot more interesting. And a link to a recipe that includes a picture of the food will generate more traffic for the original site.) The items shown on Scoop-it are clearly links back the original sites, but I don’t know if the photos are attributed.

    Trying to be honest about my actions. Maybe not the greatest idea but I want to figure out what is OK and what is not. Thanks for your help in clarifying the rules.

    • Hi Kim,

      Thanks for stopping by. I don’t understand when people don’t respond to a simple request. Anyway, Yes, it can be good for traffic. Sometimes people are very flattered that you included them in your post and they will often tweet it or share it on facebook for you. I’ve never heard of Scoop-it before but it sounds kind of like Pinterest. Some people are up in arms over sites like that because they don’t want their images used. Truth be told, I don’t know what’s right and what’s wrong here. Honesty is never wrong so as long as you’re doing your best to be honest you’ll be fine. I think it’s great that you’re seeking out more information!

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