Copyright basics for bloggers

(1) Copyright basics

The ignorance and misinformation about  copyright and fair use  has escalated as the numbers of content thieves and e-beggars has dramatically increased. Bloggers are expected to be able to sort facts from fiction, so if you are a newcomer becoming familiar with copyright law  is part of the territory.

Republishing an excerpt, correctly identifying the author of it, and providing a link back to the original post is the correct protocol.

That protocol insures you are not violating copyright law, and encourages any reader who wants to read the full post to click the link and visit the original post on its author’s site.

Succinctly stated whether or not the author of any original digital work has posted a copyright notice on their site or the work itself is irrelevant. It does not change the fact that they hold the copyright to their works and it cannot be re-published unless or until their permission has been given.

The only time a complete post can be legally re-published is when prior written permission has been received from the copyright holder. In other words, the same rules that apply to the world of print also apply in cyberspace.


Copyright Law: 12 Dos and Don’ts
10 Big Myths about copyright explained
What is copyright?
Copyright Basics (from the U.S. Copyright Office and the Library of Congress) PDF
Plagiarism versus copyright infringement

(2) Dealing with content theft

Although the only time a complete post can be legally re-published is when prior written permission has been received from the copyright holder, theft of copyrighted material that is posted splogs that are pimp out for advertising income is common. Splog Off! Dealing with content theft
Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) (PDF – 330KB)

Suppose content thieves took the whole post and gave you a no-follow link ie. a link that will not be crawled by search engines.  Well, that’s  a detriment to you and to your blog. Why would any reader on the splog site click through to your site using that link to read the whole post when they have just read whole on the splog? Interpret the end result as lost traffic – no hits will come your way from the splog site.

And, how would you feel if the copy of your original post on their blog ends up placed higher in the Google search results than your original does and the splog site get far more hits that the original post does? Be aware that this can happen. Worse still it creates duplicate content which Google can penalize sites for.

(2) Spotting a splog
Splogs, are artificially created weblog sites which the author uses to promote affiliated websites or to increase the search engine rankings of associated sites. The purpose of a splog can be to increase the PageRank or backlink portfolio of affiliate websites, to artificially inflate paid ad impressions from visitors, and/or use the blog as a link outlet to get new sites indexed. Detailed information on spotting a splog.

(3) Detecting whether or not your work has been stolen

SplogSpot is service that keeps track of spam blogs or Splogs. The splogspot spam database can be queried by anyone using the SplogSpot API. This will help blog related services, directories etc keep their sites clean.
Copyscape also provides search facility you can use to look for copies of your page on the web.

(4) How to copyright your digital works
As the blogging phenomenon expands, copyright concerns become quite important. Technology makes it really easy to copy, modify and share information, whether we talk about text, images, audio or video. The problem is that the vast majority of people do not have a clear understanding of the Copyright Law, which might result in illegal and costly mistakes. As a blogger it’s important to take the steps required to protect your digital works and post a notice that you have done so to deter content theft.

Creative Commons licenses provide a flexible range of protections and freedoms for authors, artists, and educators. provides protection for Literary Works, Visual Arts, Performing Arts, and Sound Recordings. protection for Literary Works Visual Arts Performing Arts Sound Recordings

Create circled C copyright symbols in HTML with & #0169; (ampersand-no space, pound sign, 0169, semi-colon).

Related post found in this blog:

What is copyright?

39 thoughts on “Copyright basics for bloggers

  1. Hi TImethief, I really appreciate your blog thank-you, I want to protect my art and blog with a copyright notice, does one have to include my name, or can I remain anonymous and still be protected by the copyright ? Thank-You, Peace J.A.M.

    1. You can do this under a pseudonym.

  2. Hi, I wanted to say how helpful I find this site (I’ve just started a blog). About myfreecopyright, I did a quick google and there were some worrying articles out there. I just wondered if the position had changed since you wrote this article?

    1. I no longer use it and I have not used it for years now.

      1. OK, thanks very much, I’ll cross that one of the list then – the bad press seemed to start last summer.

        1. My thanks to you for updating me.

    2. Timethief, the Myfreecopyright no longer works. I tried to email them to take my account off but the whole site seems nonexistent. I just hope nothing weird will come of it. Thank you for sharing about copyrights. Going off to study on what you wrote.

      1. I haven’t used it for years and don’t know what’s going on with theme at all. Please let me know what you find out.

        1. Not sure if this is true but online data is stating the company was sold to a Chinese company. Basically, if you have an account with them, there is no communication about your status or what is going on with them. I will let you know if I get a response from them.

          1. Thanks Sunshine. I’ll be off work in five more minutes time. Am I ever hungry. This evening I’ll take a closer look at what’s going on or if I run out of time I’ll check tomorrow.

          2. You are a bright light… always so helpful…please know you are truly appreciated. ♥

  3. Worked for me as well – my computer just must have been cranky…great resources, thank you.

  4. Great list of resources – I will be reading for a while. For some reason the The Limitations of Fair Use link is returning a 404 and I can’t seem to access the Creative Common’s web site – even from Google.

    Thank you for making a complicated issue accessible.

    1. I removed the link to the Limitations of Fair Use as the article is not longer hosted there. I clicked the Creative Commons link and connected with no problem

  5. thanks for your advice, I’ve observed the dialog between you and Jackie Paulson 1966 – and I think, you lead her fairly through a process of making things better …

    1. I am aware of how much misinformation exists and I blog with the intent of sharing information and making new friends. When we are new to blogging we make mistakes and we can only correct them if the other party brings them to our attention. I did not wish to create any ill-will between myself and Jackie. I want her to be my blogging friend so when she understood her error and corrected it I removed my response here on my own blog post and gave her permission to delete my responses on her blog too. We all get by with a little help from our friends. :)

  6. Hey timethief!

    I’ve been using Copyscape and Copyrightspot to determine theft of my content for some time now and fortunately, the results all turned out negative. However, I am still worried about content theft and would really like to try other web-based content-theft-detecting-programs aside from the two.
    Do you know of any more?


  7. Excellent Blog. Its a shame there are so many dishonest people out there.

  8. I have just discovered that a blogspot spam blog copied my complete article (Why hate Muslims?) from my personal diary! I left them a comment too and reported it as spam blog on Blogger. May need to send a DCMA notice to Google later; no time presently.

    Will be back on this page. That blog (politic-blogpolitics.blogspot) is stealing content from everywhere! :( I am worried because I left a comment there and my blogger profile has link to my primary blog which has some great content! Oh! All this had to happen during my exam season only, alas!

    BTW, I used copyscape to find out the theft! Hope Blogspot deletes that blog!

  9. @shoreacres
    Thanks for sharing your good news with us. I’m sorry this happened to you but I do advise you to remain vigilant because content theft is becoming more and more common.

  10. @timethief

    I have the link to onecoolsite updated properly now.

    I found the webhosts for the offending pages, contacted them and received almost immediate response. The pages have been removed, and I haven’t found any other violations – yet.

    Thanks for your help.

  11. @Bird
    No I haven’t tweeted for blog theme comments and I’m not inclined to do so either … lol :D Thanks for your feedback on the new theme. I appreciate it.

    1. Oops! Maybe I misunderstood… the theme deserves commenting on anyway :)

      1. Heck no you were not wrong. I am collecting comments on the new theme and so far everyone who has commented on it do like. That’s a good thing because I love ♥ it. :)

  12. Thanks for yet another useful post on copyright – I’ve got mine protected and keep an eye out for infringements since I got splogged a year ago.

    By the way, as you are asking on Twitter for comments on your new blog layout I thought I’d say that this is a very calming theme, I like the spaciousness and the colours and actually I particularly like the way the comment section is laid out and coloured too. It helps me to settle and actually read, nothing is too distracting. If a page is too bitty I find it hard to concentrate as there is too much information, but this layout is pretty clean.

  13. @shoreacres
    Thanks so much for your compliments, kind words and for sharing the link to my blog with others. I truly appreciate them. Will you please replace the link to bloggersblurt, which is no longer my blog and is a dead blog that has not been updated for over a year with a link to this blog?

    I’m sorry to say that content theft is a daily occurrence in the blogosphere. It’s a shame this happened to you. If the polite email to the blogger does not do the job then you can send a DMCA complaint to his or her web host. The instructions are found in this post along with a fill-in-the-blank DMCA complaint

    Best wishes for a positive outcome. :)

  14. After nine months of blogging, it finally happened. An excerpt with a link back to my blog appeared on an Italian site, with no attribution by name.

    I had spent a week working on the post (I’m one of those writerly sorts) and it was picked up within four hours. I was stunned.

    HOWEVER: thanks to you and others, I have had Copyscape and My Free Copyright for months. I do URL searches and put as many links to my own work inside the body of the text as possible. This time, I was lucky – it came right to me as a link on my stats page.

    I combed your info & that of others on the WP forums, and have already tracked down the owner through WHOIS. I’ll send a nice, polite email tonight and see what happens.

    I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for the work you do. I’ve included a link to your site on my own from the beginning, and recommend you whenever I think someone might risk listening to me. Keep up the great work!

  15. @Mr. I.
    Having a copyright notice is not required but it can function as a warning. No one can claim ignorance if you have one prominently posted. Even if you don’t post a notice and a content thief makes such a claim the fact is that ignorance of the law is no excuse.

  16. @Vikas
    Sadly the stories you recount seems to be happening to yet another blogger every day.

  17. I never paid attention to Copyright on my blog! (One of ignorant people). I do not copy other’s content though.

  18. I only knew of Creative Commons! I’ll soon explore the other links.

    I somewhat agree with Sebastyne that many cases happen due to ignorance/innocence but then ignorance of law is no excuse!

    I agree with your ‘cultural thing’ explanation. Nita writer had her photos stolen by mainstream national newspapers (one of which claims to be the World’s largest selling broadsheet – The Times of India)! It is not very uncommon in India to recycle material from the net and produce fresh tutorials/term papers/research papers (the professors are often not net-savvy enough to catch it!).

    A blogger friends recently had his ‘about me’ page copied from Orkut (social networking site most popular in India and Brazil). When the request to remove the copied material fell on deaf ears, some 100 friends of the victim reported abuse to Orkut management and only then the guilty was punished by Orkut!

  19. It might very well be a cultural thing. And sub-cultural. Then there are people who might use someone else’s photo, but wouldn’t even dream about using a piece of writing – or the other way around.

    I wouldn’t argue with them either if it was my content. I’ve been stolen from a couple of times, and both times the content was taken down after first request.

  20. I’ve noticed this from time to time also. Perhaps it’s a cultural thing. Here in Canada we know from the time we are little children that if we did not create something it’s not ours to use, without permission, whether or not money is involved. As far as convincing goes I don’t waste much time arguing with thieves any more. I make one removal demand and after that if they do not comply I make a DMCA complaint to their web host.

  21. There is one more, quite a different reason for copyright violation. A LOT of cases are simply innocent. These bloggers think that since they are not using it for profit or professionally as parts of thesis or such, it’s okay not to cite the source. These bloggers use others materials simply to gain readers for personal gratification “for fun” as more commonly stated. It is quite hard to convince them that using someone else’s material in this case is still not okay!

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