Know Your Digital Rights – Blog Etiquette

Sara Hawkins Blissdom Speaker

As I said in my presentation at Blissdom, ‘If Imitation is the highest form of flattery, please don’t flatter me!”. When I first ventured on to this information superhighway in about 1993, back when it was indeed called the World Wide Web, there was so little content no one really worried about what other people did. In the 17 years I’ve had some connection with the online world I’ve seen more and more people lose sight of the moral and ethical constructs of public writing.

I was surprised, but not shocked, at the number of people who came up to me at Blissdom and told me they have had copy lifted directly from their blog. Many have had their entire site lifted, post by post. This isn’t flattery by any sort of the imagination. It’s Copyright Infringement plain and simple.

In the US, Copyright laws are very archaic and often not easy to understand. Copyright only protects original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, procedures, processes, systems, methods of operation, concepts, principles, or discoveries.

A blog or website is a tangible medium and any original work you write or photograph would then be covered under US Copyright law. That’s the simplified version. It is truly much more complicated than that. Add on top of it the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and you have a very complex set of laws regarding what words are yours and how to protect them.

Rather than getting into the specifics and nuance of law of Copyright, here are

10 Blogging Etiquette Tips Related to Copying

1. Write your own material. It’s fine to share a joke or quote someone directly when that quote must be used but rarely must you use someone’s words exactly. While there are a variety of reasons to create a blog or website, unless you’re point is to copy or aggregate (that’s a completely separate topic with its own rules) then write good and unique content. Let YOUR voice be heard.

2. Attribute if you copy or quote. I’m not advocating lifting material. However, if you just can’t write what you need without using someone’s words then at least give them credit for it and only copy the minimal amount to get your point across.

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Sara