December 13, 2018

A Bloggers Guide to Copyright

Whether you’ve just started up your blog or you’re Zoella, there are certain legalities you need to understand and abide by. Blogging is very much a hobby for a lot of people and a job to others but whether your blog is a bit of fun or you’re pay-check it’s not quite as easy as choosing a host and posting a blog post, chucking in whatever photographs or images you want about whatever you want and a lot of people don’t realise that there are quite a few laws you should be aware of if you run a public blog. Today I’m going to touch on the brain fuck that is copyright, brace yourself guys because shit is about to get confusing.

**Just a little disclaimer before I start – I’m not a professional, I have studied media, art & design as well as photography so I like to think I have a reasonable understanding of how copyright works and the following is correct to the best of my knowledge but as I’m not an Annalise Keating level law bad ass so make sure you do your own research or get proper legal advice and don’t come a-knocking if I fucked up somewhere. Peace.


This is the one I find to be the most breached blogging “rule” and not just with bloggers, I’ve seen brands do it too and well, it’s just not cool guys, iight?

What’s copyright?

Copyright law is there to protect a creators work. Whether that be a photograph, design, written text, video content, audio clips, songs, etc. As soon as you create something, it is yours by copyright unless somebody else effectively buys the rights to whatever it is you’ve created. For the ease of explaining this, I’m going to use a photo as an example here.

As soon as your finger presses the shutter you own the copyright to that photograph, even if the photograph is of somebody else, their face, their arm, shoe or their cat. It doesn’t matter what the photo is of, copyright law allows the person who pressed that shutter to do anything they like with that photograph.

For somebody else to publish that photograph they would need your permission to do so, normally in the form of a Creative Commons Licence. This allows somebody’s creation to be displayed by someone else despite the copyright still being held by the original creator. There are various different CC licenses based around four conditions, each allowing/restricting certain areas of sharing:

Public Domain (CC0)

This means that the original creator has released their works into the public domain and wavered any copyright they held making it free for anyone to use.

Attribution (BY)

This is the least restrictive out of all of them. This type of CC license allows the other person to do pretty much anything with your photo providing that they credit it you for the original works.

Share-alike (SA)

This license allows the holder to build or change the photo but they can only re-licence the new work under the original terms.

Non-Commercial (NC)

This allows the person to display, distribute, edit, basically most things, so long as it is on a non-commercial basis.

No-Derivative Works (ND)

This license allows the person to share, display or distribute the photo but it prevents them from being able to edit it in any way. For example, you can share the said photo as much as you like but you can’t add a filter on it or overlay text, crop it, etc.

There are then several variations of all of these different conditions, each controlling the way in which you would be allowed to use somebody else’s creation.

It’s also important to note that Google Images are not stock photos. They’re not all copyright free and if you display these on your blog without the original author’s permission then you are infringing someone’s rights which can get your ass sued so yeh, don’t do it. Even doing things like wish lists and grabbing photos off the brand sites themselves can be a no-no. You should always get permission before displaying any images that you did not create yourself and/or check the T&Cs of the site or the owner first or you could be in breach of copyright law.

Stock Images

There are a plethora of websites that offer free stock images for people to use on their blogs, I don’t use them personally but I know a lot of people do. If you are one of those people then check, check, and check the fine print. Some images are totally free to use, some require you to credit the original photographer, some allow you to display the image but not edit it and so on. Just because it says free at first glance doesn’t always mean you can do whatever you like with it. Even just overlaying text or adding a filter can sometimes be infringing copyright so you really should be checking the fine print. Even Unsplash images aren’t technically in the public domain because they run under their own license meaning they don’t fall under CC0 to prevent people using their photos to compete with their site. Basically, always read the T&Cs. They’re important.

Fonts and Logos

If you create your own logo check the fonts and/or brushes or graphics you use are free to use for whatever it is you’re using them for. If you’re going to be displaying them or distributing them then you need to be checking. If they are not, then you are infringing the original creator’s copyrights and worst case scenario – you gon’ get sued.

Social media

If I had a penny for every time I see copyright infringement on social media I wouldn’t be writing this right now, I’d be living it up somewhere fancy in a mansion with a pool and a slush puppy machine. I don’t think most people do it on purpose and it’s rather a lack of knowledge than a malicious lack of respect for another person’s creation but pleading ignorance in court won’t get you very far so this shit is something you really need to make an effort to understand.

Quotes, graphics, photographs, etc are all copyrighted to the original creator by default and unless the original creator has wavered his/her rights and released the images into the public domain (the internet is not the public domain, just to clear that up huns) or has licensed someone else to use them.

Even if that person uploads it to Pinterest or wherever doesn’t mean you can redistribute it on your Instagram, Instastories or Twitter. There is a difference to sharing from the original source and redistributing. For example, sharing the link to the quote you love on Pinterest is ok, screenshotting and re-uploading it is not. Sharing a link to your fave bands new song is okay but putting their new track on your YouTube vid is not.

I’ve even seen brands as well as other bloggers re-post other people’s photos/images/graphics with absolutely no credit whatsoever to the original artist or with credit but not permission (which by the way, still doesn’t mean you’re not infringing copyrights, it’s up to the original creator whether they want to be okay with you reposting something of theirs or whether they want to take you to court) or even credit being given to the person who reposted the image which royally takes the piss when the image itself wasn’t even created by them. It boooothers me (if you don’t watch Coco Peru then you won’t get that reference and quite frankly I’m disappointed in you because you’re missing out).

A lot of people are okay with you sharing their stuff if you tag them as a vast majority of things on the internet are created to be shared but you should always ask and at the absolute least credit the original creator. Always.

Inspiration vs Infringement

There is a fine line between inspiration and imitation and in the blogging community, I see both happen rather a lot and while there is nothing wrong with being inspired by someone else, we all have a lot of the same props, etc it’s when someone blatantly copies various aspects of a photograph that shit gets murkier in terms of the law.

For example, if Susie posted a photo of some blue moon roses, a mac lipstick, her handbag some eyelash curlers and a phone on a rustic wooden background in a non predictable way it would be fair for Polly to be inspired and post a photo with some blue moon roses on a rustic wooden background but if Polly were to imitate the composition and other aspects of the original photograph then that would be copying an idea and an expression which can land her in hot water with derivative works liability. This would obviously depend on the unique situation and while legally, the subtle differences could possibly mean she would get away with it from a legal point of view (although they wouldn’t guarantee it) it’s still a pretty dickish thing to do and your best bet to avoid a court case is to be original and do you, not somebody else.

Basically, if you are a blogger and not familiar with copyright then I really suggest you read up on it because it affects us all.

That’s as in depth as I’m going to go today but I’m sure you can agree that it is a massive sea of confusion. The gist is basically, don’t use other peoples shit without their permission, and definitely credit where credit is due.

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