I recently had a run-in with copyright infringement. You can read about that here: Copyrights and Copywrongs: Part 1. Here in part 2 I’d like to explore copyright issues a little more and how they relate to your intellectual property and other people’s intellectual property.
Did you know that under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, your content is automatically protected by copyright? You don’t need to file anything or take special measures – your photos and words belong to you. It’s simple, clean and easy. Yet apparently so hard for people to grasp…
Because many people seem to think that things posted online are a free-for-all, here are some measures you can take to make it clear that your work is off-limits.
Place a copyright notice on the main page of your blog. You can also include one in the footer of every blog post. (I don’t do this because my feed burner automatically adds one to every post, so then it shows up in your feed as “© The Gathered Home © The Gathered Home”. A little overkill).
My copyright notice says: “COPYRIGHT © 2012-2015, The Gathered Home. All rights reserved.” The notice includes all years that the blog’s content spans, the name of the copyright owner, and the statement that I retain control of my content.
Allow Pinning. Pinterest is a great way for people to bookmark your posts and spread the word about your blog/website/content. If it’s easy for someone to pin from your blog, like with a handy hovering pin button, they’re less likely to save the images to their computer and possibly forget that you’re the creator. This assumes that the budding copyright infringer is merely ignorant and not intentional, but that probably applies to most misuse of copyrighted content: ignorance, not malice.
Watermark your images. Watermarking seems like overkill sometimes. It’s like, do I really need to slap my name on everything? I use my best judgment – sometimes if it’s a random or just ugly shot, it feels ridiculous to brand it with a pretty little logo. But it does a few things: it stakes your claim on your images, it makes it more difficult for someone to pass off your picture as their own, and if the picture is posted somewhere else (like on Pinterest), the watermark will still direct people to you as the content creator.
Know your rights. If someone else is using your content without your permission, it not only sucks, but it’s also against the law. (At least here in the United States. Apparently digital copyright laws vary around the world.) You have every right to demand a takedown. You can read about how to send a DMCA takedown notice here. Google has a page dedicated to DMCA requests for all of their products (this includes Blogger & Blogspot blogs) here. The internet may be a little bit Wild West, but thankfully there are measures in place that will come and kick a bully’s derriere on your behalf. Speak up.
Other People’s Stuff
It’s simple to say: “treat others the way you want to be treated”. But that’s usually all it takes. If you want to be safe, just never use anyone’s content without their permission.
It’s tough in blogging where you want to share gorgeous photos that you find inspiring, but sometimes they’re not even attributed, and it’s so hard to track down the content-owner to see whether or not they even want their photos shared around online!
Google image search is one way to track down the source of a picture. Say you find a lovely picture on Pinterest, and you’d like to share it on your blog, but the link doesn’t go anywhere, or it goes to a picture collection site like Tumblr where it isn’t attributed at all. Right click the picture to open it in a new tab, then select the url at the top of the page. Paste that into Google’s search bar, and Google will be all like, “Wha?? I don’t know what you want me to do with this! Try searching by image?” Yes, Google, yes. Search by image. Now you’ll have all the results of that picture posted online, and you get to weed through to try and track down it’s original source.
Does this sound like a lot of work? It is. But remember that DMCA stuff – you don’t want to be the one receiving a takedown notice!
At the very minimum, Link & Attribute. Say who the content belongs to and link to the content on their site. We all practiced correct citation in high school and college papers – it’s no different on the web.
Again, be careful with this: if the copyright owner doesn’t want their content shared, they have every right to get you to remove it. Sometimes lawsuits are involve. I am not a lawyer. This is not legal advice. I mean, kind of – as in, I am advising you to stay legal. But don’t go: Brynne said it was okay as long as I linked back, but now I’m paying a $1,000,000 fine and I am so mad at her. Do your homework. There is work involved. See if the content owner says whether or not they’re okay with sharing as long as proper credit is given. Don’t assume.
I mean, I’ve totally posted inspiration-images in the past. Blogging was founded on that! But there’s a new sheriff in town, and anti-piracy is getting real. No matter how good and un-malicious your intentions are, copyright infringement is serious.
In the future I’ll be doing a lot more linking to the websites that host the inspirational content, and posting other people’s pictures a lot less. Just a personal goal, after wrestling through the issue recently.
So to summarize: It’s hard work to produce good creative content, and you own the fruits of your labor. Let’s work together to respect and protect each other’s work!