It is very important to protect your blog from lawsuits and theft in this current modern time. It’s not easy to apply copyright laws at the time of the internet. In this article, we will discuss blogging legally.
Through the internet, freedom of speech has been widely used and there are both bad and good sides to it. One good side of it is you can freely express yourself online. On the other hand, one bad side of it is your information could easily be stolen from you.
Why do we post on the internet and how do blogging legally can affect us?
One reason might be that you want to express yourself and spread information. You also hope that someone can read what you wrote online. That’s probably your first thought. You wouldn’t think that someone might steal what you have written. However, of course, content theft is also happening online and there are plenty of cases of it. If you’re a blogger or content writer, you need to know how to protect your content. One thing you could do if your content is stolen, you can submit a claim to Google if your content is taken according to the United States Digital Millennium Copyright Act or DMCA.
If you have to use some information found on a certain website, always ask for permission if you could use what they have written, and always give credit if the content is not yours. One thing to know if your content was stolen is to always check the linkbacks on your posts.
Do we need to have a republication policy?
Yes. We greatly suggest adding a republication policy to your blog. This can tell people reading your blog if they can use your content or not. Your notice can simply state something like “You do not have permission to take content from my website and post it on your site.” You may also allow your readers to publish a quote of 100 words or less from your original article with a link to the original article. If they decide to republish a partial post, their post must be completely the same thing that appears on your website with all links included. You can also say that special permission should be asked to republish more than 100 words from your website. For full articles, you can also not permit them to republish without permission.
If you have seen websites copying and stealing your content, you can contact Google and they can remove the copied content from Google’s search results.
Tips on how to protect your online content:
- Make a reposting or permission policy on your blog.
You can use these as guidelines:
- You have to publish a quote or an excerpt of a maximum of 100 words from the original written article.
- You have to republish the partial post as exactly as it appears on the original website with proper formatting and all links included.
- We also suggest checking your linkbacks to your blog to make sure your content isn’t being taken without your permission.
- Use websites to check for plagiarism. Some examples are Copyscape, Grammarly, Duplichecker, and Scribbr among others.
Make your own original content for your blog or website
It’s actually common nowadays to just copy from other writers or bloggers, paste the content on their own website and pass it off as their own. You would be surprised at how rampant this is and how many bloggers have done this over the past few years. This is absolutely illegal so you shouldn’t do that. If you have done that in the past, better learn from your mistakes and experiences. Make your own content based on your own real experiences and expertise. So, how does this legally protect your website?
First things first. You should be aware that you’re not committing plagiarism or copyright infringement. But, what are plagiarism and copyright infringement?
Most people think that plagiarism is simply copying someone’s work or borrowing another person’s original ideas. However, terms such as “copying” and “borrowing” can hide the seriousness of the offense.
As indicated by the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, to “plagiarize” means:
- to steal and claim the ideas or words of another person as your own
- to use another person’s creation without crediting the source
- to commit literary theft
- to deliver the copied content as new and original derived from an existing source
To summarize, plagiarism is already an act of fraud. Aside from stealing someone else’s work, the person plagiarizing is also lying about it.
However, can words and ideas really be stolen?
Absolutely yes according to the United States law. When you express original ideas, this is now considered intellectual property and is protected by copyright laws just like original inventions. Most kinds of expression are under copyright protection as long as they are written in some way such as a book or a computer file.
All of the following can be counted as plagiarism:
- Copying and pasting from websites and submitting it as your own
- Copying certain words or ideas from another person without giving credit
- Not putting quotations on quotation marks
- Giving false information about the source of a certain quotation
- Changing the words but copying the exact sentence structure of a source without giving credit
- Copying the exact same words or ideas from someone makes up the majority of your work whether you give credit or not
You can still avoid cases of plagiarism by carefully citing the correct sources you got your information from. Make sure that you acknowledge a certain published material has been borrowed and you also include the necessary information to find the source. This is enough to prevent such an act of fraud.
Simply acknowledging that certain published material has been borrowed and including information necessary to find the source is already enough to prevent such an act of fraud.
How about images, videos, and music?
If you use an image, video, or any piece of music in a work you have made without properly asking for permission or including appropriate citations, then you have also committed plagiarism.
The following certain activities are commonly happening in today’s time. In spite of their popularity, they still count, however, as plagiarism.
- Copying media especially images from other websites to place them into your own papers or sites.
- Making a video using clips from other people’s videos or using copyrighted music as part of the soundtrack.
- Performing another person’s copyrighted music such as playing a cover.
- Composing music that borrows heavily from another musical composition.
These media are also considered situations in which it can be difficult to decide whether or not the copyrights of a work are being violated. Please see below for the examples:
- A photograph or scan of a copyrighted image (One specific example is using a picture of a book cover to represent that book on one’s website)
- Copyrighted music or video is playing in the background while recording an audio or video.
- Re-creating a visual work in the same medium. (One example is shooting a photograph that uses the same composition and subject matter as someone else’s photograph)
- Re-creating a visual work in a different method (One example is making a painting that closely resembles another person’s photograph).
- When copyrighted images, videos, or audio are re-mixed or altered even if done in an original way.
The two safest things to do in these kinds of situations are to avoid them altogether or ask for permission from the owner and cite them properly. The legality of these kinds of situations would be dependent according to the intent and context within which they are produced.
What is copyright infringement?
Copyright infringement simply means when “a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner.”
Secondly, always remember that you already have your own copyright protection on the original content at the time that you create it. According to copyright.gov, “your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form.” You are the sole legal owner if you are making your own original work. No one is absolutely allowed to reproduce or distribute your content without your permission.
Lastly, if people can relate to what you do to your own original content, you’ll gain genuine readers to your blog. These are the people that trusting your recommendations, share your work, and want to buy what products you’re selling. You will gain traction and authority as a content creator since all of these things help.
What should you do if your content was stolen?
You can choose to ignore as some writers do. However, your content is your intellectual property. You should try to take some steps to take down the content and not ignore the incident. One step to do is to contact the website owner via their Facebook page, Twitter account, email, or even their phone and ask them to take down what they have stolen from your website. Another step to do is file a DMCA takedown notice with Google. If your stolen content is posted on WordPress, file a DMCA takedown notice with Automattic DMCA Notice.
How liability can impact your blog
You can be held liable or responsible for many different reasons. A physical injury can possibly result just by reading one of your blogs. Your readers may suffer from financial or physical losses from a certain product you recommended. You can be held responsible for the actions they will do. This is a reality for any kind of business. It doesn’t mean that you can be exempt from liabilities and lawsuits just because your brand only exists as an online or virtual business. You also need to, of course, legally protect your blog or websites from possible damages regardless of how simple they may appear to you.
Measures to protect your blog
When you write for your blog, you need to behave ethically and also offer documentation so there is no room for confusion. You must offer your readers statements to cover any possible legal issues. Is this related in any way to blogging? Yes, of course! You may have started blogging as one of your pastimes or hobbies and now, it grew into a side hustle. Second, you are now operating a business. You are responsible or liable for keeping your audience aware of their rights and your own as well as a business owner or operator. The very best thing to do is to make several statements and make them accessible and visible from every part of your website. You should review your statements and you should also consider other legal liabilities.
Various legal problems that you and your blog may be liable for depend on the type of blog you’re making, especially ones that give financial or legal advice. But such issues might also apply to other blog types when vital information is posted publicly, such as:
- Disclosing affiliate relationship
- Readers relying on your content
- Copyright infringement
- Breach of trade secrets
- Data privacy breaches
- Comments made on your blog (if commenting is allowed)
- Defamation, etc.
Protect your content on your website
As was previously stated, people can steal content from your website. Your content is already copyrighted from the moment it is published on your website. They may steal it from your website and claim the content as their own. This is not, of course, ok. You took time to craft your unique content and someone would just steal it and pass it off as their own? Of course, you should be angry. You can save yourself from a lot of stress when you file complaints if you plan ahead. You will have to write a permission statement before anyone copies your content and claims them as their own. This statement can save you when your content is used without your permission.
A “permission statement” is a must
Write a legal disclaimer
You must also inform your readers if you’re affiliated with any organizations and if you’re compensated for affiliate links or other promotions. You need to be transparent with your audience since you’re running a legitimate business. When writing a legal disclaimer, you will have to remove yourself from any responsibility related to your affiliate products. One example is when one of your affiliate products causes physical or financial damage to one of your readers. Of course, you don’t want to be held responsible for the damages caused by a faulty product just because you recommended it. We suggest playing it safe. When in doubt, better add a legal disclaimer.
Other Considerations You Must Take For Your Own Blog or Website
Give credit where credit is due
If you take and use any kind of content from another website, you must ask for permission or you must link back to their original post. When you use content or graphics, use them also with permission. It’s also not ok to copy large amounts of text and have a small link somewhere in the place. Always contact the copyright owner to ask for permission and explain how you will use their content. If the copyright owner did not permit you, of course, you shouldn’t use it. If you violate copyright, your content is at risk of being removed from your website. Your web hosting service may have to remove the post or your website has to comply with legal orders.
Your email communications
Making a newsletter or an email list that your readers can sign up for is a great way to help market your blog posts and converse with your readers directly regularly. Emails require legal disclosures to legally protect your content. We also suggest including a PO Box or physical address for your emails and also an opt-out feature. This is required by law. You can get into trouble if the recipients of your emails have no way to contact you or opt out of your subscription emails. This would prevent spam and protect your audience from also being spammed. Most email services include this in their templates although you can choose to remove them.
Always use copyright-free stock photography
It is not recommended to go to google images and download any image you like and use it on your website. Most images found on google are already copyrighted and you can’t use them without the owner’s permission. If you have done this in the past, we suggest simply removing those images as soon as possible to legally protect your website from any possible liabilities. Instead of using google images, we greatly suggest using stock images that are free of copyright. You must also include a caption to, of course, credit or cite the source of the stock images.
Where to get stock images
You can get stock images from Pixabay and Unsplash for free and high-quality stock images. Their stock images are free and they rely on volunteers to submit images that other people can use without worrying about copyright. You can also get stock images from Shutterstock. However, this is a paid site. The advantages of using a paid stock image site are your images will not be as common and you will have more professionally styled options.
Another option is Canva, a free photo editor. They also sell copyright-free images and graphics. Their images are usually around $1 and are great for website owners who don’t want to shell out tons of cash. Also, pay attention to any licensing when you buy any images. Some stock image websites only allow use for one time. Some allow for unlimited use and for commercial use. Make sure that you do your own research to prevent any legal complications.
Always make it a priority to legally protect your website
It is essential to legally protect your content by writing legal statements that will make your intentions and responsibilities clear. Disclosures and statements posted on your website will legally protect your site in case your content is stolen and if anyone sues you for any damages. These short disclosures should be your priority. Include links that will lead to these disclaimers on every page of your website and footer. Your readers should have quick and easy access to these disclosures. In case you were sued, this will help rule out the possibility that your readers were not properly informed. When you have these links active, it is better to link these forms in older posts when appropriate. This will increase additional awareness of your policies and clarification.
Copyright laws protect content creators
Copyright laws indeed protect bloggers, content creators, and writers. This is the legal protection of an original made work also called intellectual property or IP. For content creators or bloggers, your blog posts are also protected and so as your other creations such as your ebooks, music, videos, software, podcasts, and photos. Just make sure that you are the creator of your works. The way your ideas are expressed can be protected. Although, they can’t be copyrighted. To have it copyrighted, your content must be in its final form. This means that your post is already entitled. “Baseball Statistics Expressed as Poetry” is an example. This is copyrightable but you know that neither baseball statistics nor poetry belongs solely to you.
Should content creators register for copyright?
Once your intellectual property is already in its final form, you automatically receive protection under US copyright laws. For bloggers like you, this means hitting the “publish” button once you’re done composing your blog entry. The protection comes instantly with publication and there is no need for official copyright registration to claim your ownership of the content. In a matter of fact, you also don’t need the circled-C symbol © to indicate that you’re the owner of your content. Bloggers are not really required to file an official copyright registration but you may do so if you wish to since you can’t sue for copyright infringement unless you have registered your work. To summarize, if you don’t register, there will be no lawsuits.
Can you register a copyright for your whole website?
According to our laws, yes. However, only posts that are published through the registration date are protected. Posts are the registration date and will require additional registrations.
You have two choices for copyright registration for simple and practical purposes:
- You can regularly send in registrations for your entire blog – monthly or annually
- You can register your most important posts or other content as you write them.
Can content creators protect their intellectual property without registering?
Absolutely yes. It’s not wrong to put different reminders to that effect on your website even though you’re already automatically protected.
Here are some certain things you can do to remind others that your website is protected:
- Include the copyright symbol © on each page of your site together with your name and date.
- Create a special page about your reposting policies. Clearly indicate the things you will or will not tolerate when it comes to people reposting your content. Sign up for a Creative Commons license.
- Tweak your RSS feed so that it only shows summaries of your posts.
- Use Google alerts, searches, or a plagiarism site to notify you of plagiarized content.
- Add watermarks to your visual content stating your name and website.
- If you discover that your intellectual property has been stolen, you can issue a DMCA takedown notice.
How can content creators register for copyright?
Here are two ways to register your website’s various intellectual properties with the US Copyright Office.
The online method can be done through the Electronic Copyright Office or eCO. This is the most desirable for content creators since your content is already digitized and already ready for upload. Other advantages are lower filing fees, faster processing and there is status tracking. You will have to upload the content you’re copyrighting.
- Paper forms
This is quite a hassle to do since you have to download, fill up, print the forms, and then mail them along with a CD containing your content or a hardcopy version of it.
What is “fair use?”
“Fair use” is a term you should be familiar with and knowledgeable of. This means that it’s alright to use someone else’s work for the sole purposes of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, or research as long as it’s validated according to the different factors below:
- What you’re using the content for – fair use takes into account commercial or nonprofit use and whether you’re adding something new to the original intellectual property.
- The nature of the content – using someone else’s content creatively can violate fair use more often than using it for factual work such as reviews.
- How much content you’re using – using large quantities of someone else’s work within your own content can impact fair use more than if you just use small amounts.
- How your use impacts the value of the original work – if your use of the content displaces sales of the original work, you’ll be guilty of discrediting “fair use”.
Kindly note that fair use applies to your own content that other people may criticize, comment or report on.
What is DMCA and how is it related to copyright infringement?
DMCA means “Digital Millennium Copyright Act”. This is a US law that protects digital copyrights including your intellectual property. This became a law since digital music pirating was rampant in the 1990s. This new law helped musicians and music publishers gain protection against the illegal sharing of their music.
What’s a DMCA takedown notice?
The main instrument of DMCA enforcement is the “DMCA Takedown Notice”. The recipient of the takedown notice is not the thief per se but rather, the platform where the stolen content was posted. The platform will be legally held liable or responsible for taking down the content off its servers.
This DMCA law is similar to laws against selling any kind of stolen item. One example is when a pawn shop owner can get arrested for selling stolen merchandise. This can still be possible even though the show owner is not aware that their items were from theft.
What to do if someone accuses you of intellectual property theft
It’s absolutely unpleasant if you were led with a DMCA takedown notice. If you have unwittingly reposted someone else’s work without citing the source, the first notice might be an email from the copyright holder. It can be a shock if the alleged author first issues a DMCA takedown request to your website host. The quickest solution is to immediately remove the content from your website. However, if you believe you are the sole creator and owner of the content, it’s best to get some legal advice.
Cyber Liability Insurance
Data breaches and other cybercrimes like phishing are becoming way too common recently. In recent years, data breaches have led to major fines and legal fees and also stress for common business owners such as discount retail chains, even the largest banks, even a popular health insurance company was also victim, an entertainment network, and also our federal government. And in case your blog is one that catches information in a form of lead generation, you might want to make sure that this information is stored safely.
In reality, it’s not just large organizations that are falling to being hacked or getting a virus. Even small businesses fall victim to such. 55% of small businesses already experienced a data breach and 53% had multiple breaches. So, the internet is definitely not safe.
A certain data breach can also damage your reputation and place your customers and employees at risk. It doesn’t only damage your computer system. This is why cyber insurance is very essential to your business.
What is cyber insurance?
As many blogs nowadays can convert their web traffic to customers, having a reliable and secure website is very important. And if in case you store your client info in the same system as your blog, cyber insurance, in general, covers your business’ liability in case of a data breach. A data breach may involve sensitive customer information such as their social security numbers, credit card numbers, account numbers, driver’s license numbers, and also their health records. Won’t my general liability policy cover cyber liability?
As you have learned from our previous writings, general liability insurance will cover bodily injuries and property damage that came from your products, services, or operations. However, cyber insurance is often not included in a general liability insurance policy.
What does cyber insurance cover? Aside from legal fees and expenses, cyber insurance also covers:
- Informing customers about a data breach
- Restoring the personal identities of affected customers
- Recovering compromised data
- Repairing damaged computer systems
Almost all states in the country require companies and organizations to notify their customers regarding data breaches involving their personal information. This process can be very expensive. Also, most states don’t really require companies and organizations to offer free credit monitoring when a data breach has been done. This goes a very long way with public relations.
Ask us any questions
Please do not hesitate to ask any questions or for any clarifications, you have in mind. You may send us an email or call us here at Advantage Insurance Solutions here in Denver, CO if you need more help. We are here to help you and are always happy to be of service so contact us today and get your business protected!