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 –
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