This year I have goals for my blog and new projects underway that I’m extremely excited about. As I started considering my approach and plans to reach my goals I realized I would be using a lot of content from others as examples in a specific category. With that in mind I decided I needed to better understand the etiquette and legal regulations of content sharing, specifically regarding images.

Before I get into my research findings, I want to say that I am not a lawyer and in no way am providing legal advice. The information I am providing is based on my personal research findings. Any additional questions should be researched on your own. 

SHARING, RECYCLING, & STEALING CONTENT

In the blogging world it is a huge compliment to have your content shared, it’s a goal to have it do just that. But sharing, recycling, and stealing content are three very different things.

To share content is to spotlight and talk about the original source. This means that you do not share the content in it’s entirety but link back to it. Sharing generally takes place in social media channels such as Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter.

Recycling content is to reuse content of your own, make it new again, and create a new approach or post. Recycled content can also be when you see an idea or concept and make it yourself and create a unique and original post for you. Original ideas are sometimes hard to come by, but just because you create a brand new version of a used concept doesn’t mean it is stealing. But the images, steps, and text must be your own and not plagiarized in any way. We have freedom of speech, but make sure it is your speech, and not plagiarized.

Stealing content is when you take images, direct quotes or concepts from a specific person or site and claim them as your own in part or in its entirety. There are hundreds of posts of “recycled” ideas but if you take text or images from one of these and claim it as your own, or even post it without permission on your site, you are in violation of intellectual property laws.

Sadly, I believe that most bloggers are probably guilty of this at some level without even realizing it. I highly recommend reviewing your content and posts to reevaluate.

image-piracy

WHAT IS THE LAW?

Did you know there is an organization specifically dedicated to the understanding and support of intellectual property? Before this post, I had no idea. They are called the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

Because of their site and information, I am going to share a direct quote from their site:

“Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce.

IP is protected in law by, for example, patents, copyright and trademarks, which enable people to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they invent or create. By striking the right balance between the interests of innovators and the wider public interest, the IP system aims to foster an environment in which creativity and innovation can flourish.”

This gave me a very clear and precise understanding about what is included under the IP umbrella. The most pertinent to me was regarding the copyright laws. WIPO offers services and details about IP information and it’s various chapters throughout the world. However the WIPO’s definition of copyright is as follows:

“Copyright (or author’s right) is a legal term used to describe the rights that creators have over their literary and artistic works. Works covered by copyright range from books, music, paintings, sculpture, and films, to computer programs, databases, advertisements, maps, and technical drawings.”

So what do these “definitions” mean when it comes to the law?

Without getting too crazy with legal terms – basically you can’t touch another person’s content, ideas, quotes, design, lyrics,  etc. without proper permission in any way. In a similar form, it is plagiarism.

HOW TO AVOID COMMITTING INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY THEFT OR COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT

The scary part of this post is over, you now have a better understanding of what is okay and what isn’t. But how can you avoid it? Well, I was a little nervous about how much extra work I might be facing in getting certain posts ready for my blog. Until… I did some extra research.

IMAGES

When it comes to images for your blog or business it is hard to find the time and means to take the perfectly edited and perfectly lit photo for each unique topic. Fortunately today, we have stock photography.

Don’t be turned off by the term “stock photography”. It used to scare me or seem expensive and well out of my reach. But the reality today is that there are tons of resources out there at various prices…including FREE, while still being legal.

When you are looking at stock photography, understand that the word “stock” photography does not give you license to use the image in any way you seem fit. You are allowed to purchase various licenses with stock images that allows you to use it for personal use, business and other.

Before you purchase a license from a site or from an individual, make sure you understand what their terms of use are. For example, commercial use, fair use, personal use, copyright release, royalty free, print release; there are many versions of copyright release and digital use laws – verify before you purchase or use an image what their permission includes; never assume.

But there is one license you should always look for. It is called Creative Commons License. It allows you to use the content in a public way. According to my handy-dandy-super-simple google search this is what CCL was defined as:

A Creative Commons (CC) license is one of several public copyright licenses that enable the free distribution of an otherwise copyrighted work. A CC license is used when an author wants to give people the right to share, use, and build upon a work that they have created.

With this license you can edit the original work and share it (Perfect right?). Don’t get the CC license confused with the Creative Commons organization which actually provides a platform for you to use and share content with others. Check it out. 🙂

stock-photography

WHERE TO FIND STOCK IMAGES

Let’s just get to the point. Here are some sites you can find images to use. Remember, just because they are free, doesn’t mean they have full copyright release. Verify the licenses even on the free images and files.

ENDORSEMENTS & SPONSORS

Always clearly label and identify when content is sponsored, endorsed or an affiliate on your site. Let me just say this… the Federal Trade Commission helped to put in place official guidelines and regulations when it comes to reviews, endorsements and advertising. If your blog, site, or business is involved in this type of advertising, this is a MUST read. Read ALL of it here at ecfr.gov.

ADDITIONAL SAFETY MEASURES

These are just tips from me regarding copyright and playing it safe.

  • Always ask permission before using the content unless you purchased a license.
  • Provide clear links to the original source’s website where it is clear who the original creator is.
  • Communicate on your page what you approve regarding your personal content. Let others know what is and isn’t okay for them to do with your IP.
  • Clearly communicate a disclosure when you use endorsement, and affiliate links, sponsors, and reviews. (One disclosure on your website, on a sponsor page or in a footer is not enough, in my opinion. Make sure you are specific on the posts and links.)
  • Include affiliate disclosures on social media posts as well.
  • Be honest in your reviews and claims regarding products and services.
  • Avoid Google Images…just don’t do it.

HOW TO KEEP YOUR CONTENT SAFE

Just as you don’t want to be using another’s content illegally, you don’t want others to use yours in a way you wouldn’t approve of. So here are a few ways to help protect your content and images.

  • Use watermarks on images
  • Post a disclaimer for content and image use
  • Use plugins or code to prohibit the downloading or savings of your images. (Obviously because of the screenshot feature this can never fully be avoided, but it can certainly help)
  • If you are extremely concerned about your content being used, you can always check out a content protection plugin such as WP Content Copy Protection & No Right Click.  There are various versions of this available, search to find one that fits your needs best.

I hope this information was helpful and useful to you. Since starting I have contacted nearly a dozen businesses and websites to ask for permission and have yet to have one respond negatively. I have received much gratitude for following the “rules”. It doesn’t take much to do what is right. Good luck!

Terms I searched when completing my research: Intellectual Property, IP Laws, Plagiarism, Digital Theft, Copyright Laws, Federal Trade Commission, Affiliate Marketing Laws, Content Theft, Creative Commons License, Digital Piracy, Copyright Infringement,

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