Many of us know a blog scraper when we see one. This is a blog that hasn’t put any thought whatsoever into their blog, and simply reproduces content stolen from other bloggers. There isn’t much gray area here. This is copyright infringement, and it’s just bad for the blogging community.
I see blogs all the time, however, that are either outright violating copyright laws or are certainly riding the line. Many times, these are bloggers who know their topics but probably aren’t well-versed in copyright laws. While that’s certainly understandable, it is pretty crucial to learn.
Here are a few reasons why:
- People who do know the law better than you will read your blog, and it can badly damage your credibility.
- You could get reported to your blog hosting site, such as Blogger, for the violations.
- You could get a cease and desist letter or, even possibly, sued by the person who originally wrote the content.
- That original blogger could badmouth your blog on their own site (surely without providing an incoming link)
To avoid that, here are some basic guidelines on following copyright laws on your blog.
Copyright and Content
It is legal to quote, but copyright laws state that you can’t take the substance of the original content. The nice thing about blogs is they make it very easy to follow this law. I have frequently seen entire articles posted on a blog with a link to the original site. Don’t do this!
Post a blurb of perhaps 2-3 sentences, state your source, and link to the source. And never copy content without citing the source.
Here is a good example. People frequently will post someone else’s top 10 list in its entirety. While that is fun, that is likely the essence of the content and is in violation of the original writer’s rights. The legal way to do this would be to post, perhaps, what the top 10 list is about and state no more than one item on the list as a teaser, and then link to the complete article.
Copyright and Photos
I frequently see images where the person has been kind enough to state the source, but I can tell they didn’t get permission to use the picture. For example, if you’re saying the photo belongs to Associated Press, ESPN.com or some other major publication, I’ll bet you never got their permission.
Never use photos unless they come from a royalty free site like stock.xchng or a pay-per-image site, and even then you need to check the usage allowed first. Stock.xchng alone, for example, has photos you can freely use, photos that can only be used with attribution to the source, and some that cannot be used without written permission.
You can also look for Creative Commons licenses on photos, but check closely for which license is being used. As a courtesy, you should always contact photographers with a link where it was used. If you are ever unclear, contact the photographer before using the photo to request permission. The same goes for graphics, icons and other artwork.
Also be sure you always provide a credit on a photo, which is just a common courtesy. The easiest way to do this in a blog is to simply add text at the bottom stating the subject of the photo and who the photographer is. A link to their site or portfolio is also a good idea if you don’t mind the added external links.
Copyrights are Online, Too
I have even had people say to me that anything on the web is in the public domain. This is not true. Consider anything online to be just as sacred as anything in print. If in doubt, you can ask yourself what you would want someone to do with your content before you post someone else’s.