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The Content Producer’s Copyright Checklist

Copyright is the content producer’s constant companion. If you create content, you own it, and you want it to stay that way!

At the same time, many bloggers link to, quote, and reference other peoples’ work. Understanding where the line of copyright falls is essential if you and your blog are to stay on the right side of the law.

The Basics

We all know that information — including images, video, music, or words — published online is not there for the taking.

My bare-bones rulebook for using other people’s content looks like this:

  • Only use content that’s identified explicitly as being available for reuse under the creative commons or open content licenses.
  • Always include a linked citation alongside the content I reference or reuse, identifying the creator and the URL of the original work.
  • Contact the creator to let them know I’m reusing their content and appreciate their making it available.

You may also choose to identify the license under which the content was made available for reuse in your citation.

When I include a quote in a post, I make sure I identify the individual I’m quoting, and I always include a link to the source document from which I’ve obtained the quote itself.

These are the basic rules I follow when I’m using content created by others. But what about your own blog’s content?

The Blogger’s Copyright Checklist

This checklist should help you to ensure your blog is up to the basic copyright “safety standards”:

  1. Does a current copyright notice appear on every page of your blog?
  2. Do you watermark any unique images you own and have published to your blog with your blog’s URL?
  3. Have you secured content assets like ebooks, whitepapers, and reports, and do each of these assets carry your copyright notice?
  4. Have you set a copyright policy for guest posts that you publish on your blog?
  5. Do you request and agree to the copyright policies of any blogs you contribute to, either in a paid or unpaid guest arrangement?

Other Copyright Considerations

Deciding on your approach to copyright early in the piece can help you keep a handle on infringements of your copyright — and avoid infringing the rights of others. It can also affect the value of your property. For example, you might decide you’ll only publish completely unique content over which you own all rights, in a bid to ensure that when you sell the site in future, you get the best possible price for the content itself.

Prevention is better than cure. Sometimes protection is an insufficient deterrent, but in cases where your rights are infringed, you can always lodge a DMA takedown notice with the offending site’s host.

On the other hand, you may decide that you want to release some of your assets under the Creative Commons license, which “provide[s] free licenses and other legal tools to mark creative work with the freedom the creator wants it to carry, so others can share, remix, use commercially, or any combination thereof”.

Alternatively, you might use the Open Content license, which licenses content “in a manner that provides users with the right to make more kinds of uses than those normally permitted under the law – at no cost to the user.”

Are you concerned about others infringing your copyrights? What steps have you taken to protect yourself?

Continue reading this series of articles on questions surrounding blog content.

About the Author: Georgina has more than ten years’ experience writing and editing for web, print and voice. She now blogs for WebWorkerDaily and SitePoint, and consults on content to a range of other clients.

About Georgina Laidlaw

Georgina Laidlaw is a freelance content developer, and Content manager for problogger.net. You can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Problogger.net runs on the Genesis Framework

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Comments

  1. Josh Garcia says:

    Hey Georgina,

    It’s always nice to be reminded of copyright and proper way of standards in the blogging world.

    Chat with you later…
    Josh

  2. Hi,

    I think copyright infringement are a big problem online. I see them all the time.

    So I had a question:

    If you quote something, and you include their link, is that fine? Do we have to worry about creative commons or open content licenses in this instance?

    Kindest,
    Nabeel

  3. Thanks for the check list.

    I have been careful to not infringe on others copyrights but I have not been as careful to protect my self.

    You mention securing the content of ebooks and reports. What method do you use to do this?

  4. I have my copyright notice in the footer, so that it automatically appears at the bottom of every page. It’s a few sentences long and also addresses the rights of the other authors on my site (they work as independent contractors and have all rights to their work).

  5. Thank you thank you for reminding everyone to be respectful!

    Whereas it may be flattering to see one’s hard work “borrowed” by others, too often it is just plain stealing. Great that you provide some guidelines for proper usage.

    Thanks again, Russ

  6. melissa says:

    i remember my college days with this article…copyright is very much observed since we were in the creatives. im impressed that our professors can actually catch those students who just copied. i think it is just right that we are aware of this in respect to the authors.

  7. Julian says:

    and also

    i think it would be better to put the source on every quoted elements such as pictures and videos

  8. Dan says:

    Awesome post!

    Myself and a number of other bloggers and content producers just had their work ripped off by an “author” who copied and pasted their whole book together from work online. It makes me sick the fact that she completely felt justified doing so and has done for the last 6 or so years.

    Thanks for the tips!

  9. Sally says:

    Hey Georgina,

    I never thought to watermark my images, I shall get onto that straight away.

    And I don’t even know if I have a copyright notice on all pages of my blog, shame on me, better get checking that right now too.

    Thanks for the tips, I found them really helpful.

    Sally :)

  10. Hey Georgina,

    Really Great stuff about copyright.
    Thanks for Sharing this great Post.

    ~Dev

  11. One of the biggest ways that I hve found to protect myself without having to go through a bunch of legal trouble is to create content in your own voice.

    If you build a brand around your own personality and you can allow that brand to show through in the work that you are doing, then your audience, your buying audience will come to know and trust your voice. They will buy only from the brand of you.

    If an imposter comes on the scene and tries to copy your work, it will only appear that they are ripping your off and have little impact on your business. You have to build the brand of you, instead of a corporation.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  12. jason says:

    Good article on something that not a lot of people want to write about, but this article is worth dividends to whoever uses it.

  13. Pete Carr says:

    Hi Georgina,

    Copyright is something i tend to forget about.
    After reading your post i think it’s time to take it more seriously.

    Thanks

    Pete

  14. Ray says:

    One thing that I’ve always wondered about is whether the year of the copyright notice is important. That is, if my pages or content has [copyright symbol] FreshBlogger 2009, is this still valid or do I need to update this every year?

  15. David Doolin says:

    Personally, I go back and forth on copyright issues.

    Sometimes, I get really bent when people copy my stuff.

    Other times, there is so much of it going on, I can’t keep up with it all. And the time I spend chasing infringers is time I could be spending creating new work.

    For people guest posting on my blog, I do not hold their copyright. They wrote it, it’s theirs. I run articles of interest to my readers, and if the author wants to run that same article somewhere else, that’s none of my business.

    I have a particular issue about this as the vast majority of my work is locked up under academic and commercial copyright. I have to pay money to see my own published work. I won’t do that to someone else.

    Most bloggers insist on holding copyright to guest posts, and that’s fine. People should be free to conduct their business how they like.

  16. Marco says:

    Good reminder on copyright. I want to add that unique content is also protected by copyright law when there is not copyright notice on it (or on the website).

  17. Thu Nguyen says:

    Hi Georgina,

    One of the ways which helps with copyright is backlinking your posts internally. It seems if the article is scraped from your site then it links back to you and you will get the trackback which alerts you. Overall, I agree with Josh the Underdog that writing it in your own voice is a way to differentiate what’s out there.

    I haven’t had a copyright broken yet but quoted with linkbacks which is fine. Thanks for the insightful article!

    Thu

  18. make money says:

    Sometimes Iam really bent when you copy my stuff. Other times, there are so many it happens, I can not stop everything. And the time I spend in pursuit of counterfeiters is time that I could use to create new jobs. For those guest posting on my blog, I do not respect their copyright. They wrote, is theirs. I am running articles of interest to my readers, and if the author wants to run the same article, moreover, it is not my business. I have a particular topic on what the vast majority of my work is enclosed in the Copyright academic and commercial. I have to pay money to see my own work published. I will not do to another.

  19. Gerri says:

    I learnt the hard way when it came to a few images that I took for one of my websites. They were very unique and a little while later, they were being used of big name news sites (related to the country that I blog about – I don’t want to go into details of the blog for personal reasons). After that episode, I watermark all unique images that I put up and that put and end to it. Those people that want to use the images now pay for them accordingly.

    I still have to implement some of the other steps mentioned above.

  20. jtrigsby says:

    I have to admit… I’m a little conflicted on this topic. No so much over the right or wrong of “stealing” content, if that’s all you’re doing that’s wrong. Maybe over what some consider “stealing” and moreso over how much to worry about it.

    First, my only experience using someone else’s content is pulling quotes and sometimes images. My general rule of thumb is that the quote or image need to add value to what I’m doing and ( hopefully ) to the original work. Quotes tend to be a sentence or two and I do my best to give a link back to the original content and if I can, send an email to the author with a heads up. IMHO, that approach abides by the spirit of copyright and fair use as well as what blogging is all about.

    That said, I’ve had people complain about me using their original content in that way. Even though I really don’t understand their complaint, I’m always happy to take it down and remove the links (that I REALLY don’t understand!).

    On the flip side of that coin, my stuff gets ripped off all the time. I’d suggest that if you’ve never had content ripped off, you are doing something wrong. Either you don’t write enough or you’re writing about a topic that scammers / spammers (and hence the paying Internet) don’t care very much about. For a long time, I tried to stay on top of it… searches, alerts, emailing take-downs, all that jazz. That only got me tired and frustrated.

    Now, I look at it as part of the machine. Its just the way its going to work. Actually, its kind of validating to have my stuff ripped off. I’ve gotten over myself, my self-proclaimed “authority”, and my indignation and just get on with writing. I honestly don’t spend any time at all even thinking about this stuff any more, I just don’t see the point.

  21. Great post !

    Yes this is so true ,thanks for reminding me ..

  22. I appreciate the great tips, but I’m still a little confused with the whole copyright thing. I’ve been told that to simply add a comment to a page about copyrights is worthless unless you actually file a copyright which can be very expensive. Is that true?

  23. My sister actually told me quite the same and I first couldn’t understand it. Now it is much more clear to me =)

  24. make money says:

    I have my copyright at the bottom, so it automatically appears at the bottom of each page. There are some long sentences and also addresses the rights of other authors on my site (they work as independent contractors and have all the rights to their work).

  25. Now I consider as part of the machine. Its just his way of going to work. Actually, its kind for the validation of my stuff is ripped off. I have more than myself, a self-proclaimed "authorities", and I am outraged and just get on with writing. I honestly do not waste time at all, even thinking about these things, I do not see the point.

  26. godlark says:

    In poland you don’t need mark anything sign “©” or make similiary things. But I have in the foother info about my copyright policy.

  27. Here’s something VERY important I learned from a Hollywood intellectual property attorney. All work you produce is technically protected by copyright the moment you produce it. The copyright bug merely puts people on notice that it is not “public domain.”

    However, copyright bugs are NOT enough. If you do not register content with the US Copyright office, then you cannot sue for attorneys fees, which means while you technically can win, your legal costs will almost certainly outweigh the damages you collect. Few attorneys will take the case, which means practically speaking you cannot sue to protect your rights. If you have something you hold dear (like a website) I highly recommend you register it with the copyright office and seek appropriate counsel.

  28. Will Marlow says:

    Thanks for posting this — people don’t discuss this issue frequently enough, and the information has pushed me to make changes to my blog. I upload original photography with each of my blog posts, and now I will make sure to watermark it moving forward, as well as to display my copyright elsewhere on the blog.

  29. PatriciaD says:

    I think I even knew I should copyright my blog but totally had forgotten…thank you for the reminder!!

  30. I need to work on this. Question: I discovered someone used one of my sketches on their blog post. It has my website on the picture but it was used without permission of linked back to me. Should I contact the person? Or just leave it?

  31. Marcel says:

    Great advice!
    How to know when someone is pumping your work in another language?

  32. Great info…a must read for new bloggers and a great reminder for the more seasoned ones too.

  33. Scott Ellis says:

    Check out Jonathan Bailey’s Site Plagiarism Today, http://www.plagiarismtoday.com/ if you want to go deep on the topic. Jonathan really knows his stuff, particularly when it comes to online copyright and related issues.

  34. Good tips about copyrights. Somehow I don’t see the benefits of the Creative Commons licensing for the typical blogger. While writing a good, original and exclusive blog post isn’t possible for everybody, is publishing duplicated content really an alternative? I’m thinking of this from a blogging and SEO perspective only.

  35. Adam says:

    Wow, thank you for this. I had never even considered copyright issues for guest posts. This is great information.

  36. Thank you for this post. I agree Prevention is better than cure. I have registered with free copy right company, not only will you get a badge to place on your site, but you can upload your urls and get a digital fingerprint and time stamp for each piece of content I create, and I get daily email with these.
    Even few things like disabling copy and paste feature will help to deter thieves.

    It really outrage me, when people can just take your hard work, and pass it as theirs.I open this discussion on a forum I visit regularly and most people reply was it is the internet what can you do? In fact there is a lot you can do if you research it well.

  37. jtrigsby says:

    So Money Making Cow… how to you keep people from ripping off your RSS feed? What ever amount of effort you put into “protecting” your content by disabling copy/paste is moot when I can have your new content emailed to me instantly when its posted.

    Sure, you could disable RSS, but that’d be like building a shopping center without doors… so you can keep the thieves out!

    We all have to remember that rules or meant for rule-abiding people. People who are going to break the rules… really don’t care about them in the first place. So Copyright, whethers its CC or otherwise, isn’t going to stop anyone from stealing your content. If they want it, they’re gonna get it.

  38. Hi,
    I know there is a way around copy and paste method but this is one of the many ways you can at least deter lazy thieves. There are new sblogs popping out, some post contents with crediting the authors but there are others who just cut and paste.
    I researched and posted about this particular topic in my blog. I still use copyscape regularly to check if my contents is intact, and I get email finger print for every new content in my blog. It might not be enough but so far that what I have been doing.
    If someone steal my content then I can challenge them.

  39. neon says:

    While this is a great article, I’m starting to think the whole copyright thing is a bunch of bull. Recently, almost all of my recent posts were copied (in their entirety) and put on a site based out of China. Then the owner of that site inserted a bunch of links into the content, for SEO purposes I assume.

    This site comes up #4 in Google now when you search my site name. Which means that the whole SEO “don’t copy people’s site” is BS and the whole copyright thing is BS – at least when it comes to China.

    Did you ever see what it takes to get your stolen material off of Google?? A bunch of leg work and sending paperwork in. Pathetic.

  40. James says:

    I have seen sites use content that required proper attribution and neglect it or completely destroy it. Just another way that some abuse the work of others in the copyright area.
    Rather than DMA in a lot of cases, just letting the site owner know he is infringing on copyrighted material may solve the situation. Of course, if he has an attitude or does not respond properly, the dirt bag deserves all the bad that can be served.
    I think it’s best to assume abuse is non-intentional, but it can be hard to think that way when it seems like someone is ripping you off.

  41. Often times I’m looking for an image to add to my post, and I’ll add a caption saying the name of the site where I found the picture. However, I’ve always wondered if this is the original site of the image. What if they took it from another site and I’m giving credit to the wrong origin? This has constantly been an unresolved issue for me. My options are to only use my own images, which can be as time consuming as blogging, or continue doing what I’ve been doing, but I always wonder if I’m stealing someone’s image. I don’t want to do that! Any suggestions on how I can resolve this?

  42. Kerry-ann says:

    Funny how we can give advice to others but then fail to take own advice. When I read about copywriting I thought – excellent. And then I went straight over to my blog and realised I didn’t have any of what you were talking about on my blog! Oops!

  43. nick says:

    The copyright bug merely puts people on notice that it is not “public domain.”

    Really Great stuff about copyright.
    Thanks for Sharing this Post.

  44. Content scraping and copyright infringment are major issues for not just bloggers, but article writers, web designers, commenters, and social networking participants. It is something that is very hard to control.

  45. I just finished reading Napoleon Hill’s Think and grow rich and it is interesting how positive thinking really changes the complete outcome of things.