Blog Law: Facebook Promotion Guidelines

Facebook Logo image

UPDATE: Facebook changed their promotion guidelines on May 11, 2011. This post reflects information regarding promotion guidelines prior to that date. I have provided an update to Facebook promotion guidelines.

Technically, Facebook promotions and giveaways are not a legal issue. However it has come up quite a bit so I figured it’s an important topic. In addition, you run the risks of having your business-related page removed or banned by Facebook if your promotion is not in compliance with the guidelines.

One of the great things about the internet is that information is just a few clicks away. The unfortunate part is that not all that information is true, correct or accurate. Facebook Promotion Guidelines changed on December 1, 2010 making it easier to run a variety of promotions. So, if searching for what you can do to promote your giveaway, review, sweepstakes or contest make sure you’re looking at the most current terms.

General Rules

1. You Must Use A Third-Party Application

According to the Facebook Promotion Guidelines you can not use the Facebook platform to conduct any part of a promotion. (Well, you can use the Facebook platform but you need their permission and you also need to have pretty hefty ad spending) You shall not collect entries, conducting a drawing, judging entries, or notifying winners. You must use a third-party service or create a promotions that that is hosted on your server. For most bloggers, using a third-party application is often not cost effective. Some options for hosting a Facebook promotion you may want to consider

Wildfire – the most widely used, and offers a ‘DIY’ type low-cost option

Bulbstorm – not aware of any blogger-based pricing option

Fanappz – offers a Free ‘Lite’ options but does not include promotions

Friend2Friend – a business-level application, pricing options not provided on website

NorthSocial – Offers pricing plans that may be blogger-budget friendly

There are other applications for Facebook promotions but I find them to be out of the price range for most bloggers.

2. You Can Not Suggest Facebook Is Connected With Your Promotion

Facebook is very protective of its intellectual property and wants you to tell every that they have nothing to do with your promotion. You must make it very clear that Facebook is in no way affiliated with your promotion. Facebook provide specific details as to the language that is to be used so that you are in compliance, so see the guidelines for additional help.

3. You Can Not Ask People To Interact On Your Facebook Page To Vote or Qualify

Facebook is very clear that it does not want you asking people to interact on your page as part of your promotion. No posting photos, leaving comments, making status updates, tagging, linking or any such requests. Facebook, being so kind as they are, has outlined what you MAY DO:

  • Allow entry by asking reader to Like a Page
  • Allow entry by asking reader to Check in to a Place
  • Allow reader to Connect to your Contest Tab or Application

4. Limitations On Your Facebook Promotion

  • The promotion can not be open or marketed to individuals under the age of 18;
  • The promotion can not be open to individuals who reside in a country embargoed by the United States;
  • The promotion, if a sweepstakes, can not be open to individuals residing in Belgium, Norway, Sweden, or India;
  • The promotion’s objective can not be to promote any of the following product categories: gambling, tobacco, firearms, prescription drugs, or gasoline;
  • The prize or any part of the prize can not include alcohol, tobacco, dairy, firearms, or prescription drugs; or
  • The promotion can not be a sweepstakes that conditions entry upon the purchase of a product, completion of a lengthy task, or other form of consideration.

There you have it. Facebook promotion guideline in an easy to understand format so every blogger can comply with the guidelines and not risk losing your page due to non-compliance.

For other articles about the legal implications of being online, check out my series on blog law and online rights.

Disclosure: While I am a lawyer, I am not offering legal advice. Posts on legal matters are intended to provide legal information and do not create an attorney/client relationship. This post is part of my Blog Law Series.


Guidelines for Posting and Using Photos on Photo Sharing Sites

Using and Posting Photos on Photo Sharing Sites

Used to be that we would upload our photos to our computers and then email them out to friends and family. Then the photo files got to be larger and larger and it become annoying to send one photo at a time. Photo sharing sites were developed to help facilitate showing our friends and family photos of our kids and vacations. Today they’re both virtual albums for the casual photographer and portfolios for the professional. It simplified things. Somewhat.

But because some people believe that if it’s on the internet it’s free, they feel they can take any photo they can access and use it for whatever purpose. Unfortunately for many images that is not true. But the fact is that many people never actually read the Terms and Conditions of signing up for a photo sharing site. And in bypassing that critical step they may unknowingly agree to a royalty-free license for anyone to use, modify or distribute their image. You may own the copyright but it’s basically worthless.

Posting Photos on Photo Sharing Sites

The big two – Flickr and Picasa – do not, by its terms, take any actions as to the copyright or license of photos you upload. Both have clearly developed Creative Commons communities which allow users to set the terms and conditions by which their photos may be used by others.

One of the major sites that is not as protective of your copyright is PhotoBucket. There are other smaller photo sharing sites that have used similar terms. By uploading your images you are basically giving up your claim of copyright because you are authorizing such a broad and sweeping license. You’re not giving the right to sell the image but that’s about all you are retaining.

By displaying or publishing (“posting”) any Content on or through the Photobucket Services, you hereby grant to Photobucket and other users a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, worldwide, limited license to use, modify, delete from, add to, publicly perform, publicly display, reproduce and translate such Content, including without limitation distributing part or all of the Site in any media formats through any media channels, except Content marked “private” will not be distributed outside the Photobucket Services.

Have you ever read the Terms and Conditions of your photo sharing site? Probably not. I don’t blame you. The type is small, a bunch of legalese and we’re so used to just clicking ‘Agree’ and being on our way.

I am just using these three because they are the largest. I highly recommend checking out if your photo sharing site allows you to maintain creative control over your uploaded imaged.

Using Photos From Photo Sharing Sites

You’re looking for a photo so you go to Flickr, PhotoBucket or Picasa and look for something that fits your post. A quick search yields seemingly endless possibilities. You choose a photo and download it to your computer so you can use it in your post. Maybe you credit with a link to the page you found it on, maybe not. You might just put the username or profile name. Depends on how you’re feeling.

The fact that you don’t know much about the image should give you pause. At minimum you should believe that the person who posted the image has the copyright on the image. Barring any information to the contrary, the person who takes a photography will normally obtain copyright in that image. Did you check to see if there were any licenses on the image? Did you specifically search for a creative commons licensed image?

Taking an image from a photo sharing site can open you up to potential problem if you do not have the right to use the image. Not every photo is licensed for use on these sites. And most that do require, at minimum, some type of attribution. Knowing what type of attribution is required is important.

If you want to use images from photo sharing sites, know what you are and are not permitted to do. If the copyright holder is gracious enough to allow you to use the image under a creative commons license, follow their requirement.


Know what you’re agreeing to when you post your images to a photo sharing site. And equally as important, know if an image you want to use from a photo sharing site is fully protected by copyright or subject to some license that will permit you to use it. And if you can use it, know the terms of use. Copyright protection of images when it comes to use on the web is significant.

If your copyrighted image is used without permission you’re not required to send a cease and desist before using other protections from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Furthermore, by using a copyrighted image you risk your site being taken down without warning. It may not seem fair, but a copyright holder has some very powerful tools to prevent unauthorized use of their images.

For other articles about the legal implications of being online, check out my series on blog law and online rights.

Disclosure: While I am a lawyer, I am not offering legal advice. Posts on legal matters are intended to provide legal information and do not create an attorney/client relationship. This post is part of my Blog Law Series.


Introduction to Contracts for Bloggers and Online Professionals

Contract Law Basics

Monetization, ad-sponsored content and conference sponsorship discussions have become more and more prevalent among the blogging community. I’ve noticed that the issue of contractual obligations has started to come up. Throughout the twitter stream I see pleas for sponsorships, giveaway donation, reviews and so forth. In addition, as bloggers, often we agree to a number of obligations that may or may not be written formally or even at all.

Contracts are written or oral obligations between two or more parties. When they are written, they may be as formal as a fully negotiated agreement between lawyers or as casual as the exchange of a few emails. In the law though, there are only three (3) things needed to make a contract enforceable between two or more parties. I use the term parties because I’m including both people and organizations.

For a contract to be valid there must be (1) an offer, (2) acceptance of that offer and (3) consideration, whether monetary or not. It seems pretty simple, but some of the most litigated issues in the court system has to do with one of these three part of a contract. While they seem very simple, in fact, they can become exceedingly complex by a host of nuances, misunderstanding and timing.

By this point, most people have entered into some sort of contract in their life. As kids or young adults we’ve likely all asked someone to do something, they agreed to do it and we paid them in some fashion. Most of these contracts were oral (verbal).

Oral, or verbal, contract are valid and enforceable, but there are limits. The law says that certain contracts must be in writing to be enforceable. In law this is called the Statute of Frauds. The types of contracts the law says must be in writing to be enforceable are: Continue reading “Introduction to Contracts for Bloggers and Online Professionals”


Blog Law – True Story: A Bigger Blogger Took My Recipe

Cookie Jar

Today I came across a series of tweets about a food blogger who was upset that another blogger took her photo and recipe, reproduced it on her site while providing a credit and link back in smaller text but also tagged the original blogger on Facebook.

Earlier in the week, Confessions of a Cookbook Queen posted a photo and recipe for Shamrock Mint Oreos. Although unclear because there is no copyright notice, I’m taking her word that the image is hers. As such, it is protected by copyright and any use of it on the other website is clearly a violation of copyright. The law does not require a copyright notice, but it does help to let people know you own it.

The issue actually is a bit more complicated regarding the photo because on the photo, Cookbook Queen uses a registered trademark, Oreo. Kraft is the owner of the registered trademark for the word Oreo as it pertains to cookies, and in fact that trademark has been registered since 1913. So we have a photo of homemade sandwich cookies in the style of what an Oreo would look like with the word Oreo on the photo. This brings up the issue of Trademark Infringement.

Is the original photo infringing on the right of Kraft’s exclusive use of the word Oreo as pertaining to this type of sandwich style cookie? The result is that even though Confessions of a Cookbook Queen may have a copyright on the photo in question, it does contain a potentially infringing use of a registered trademark. That, however, does not mean the other blog can take the copyrighted image, whether giving a link back or not.

Now, let’s get to the recipe part. I’ve discussed Recipe Copyright before and mentioned that ingredient lists are not protected by copyright. So let’s look at the directions. Are they sufficiently original to be considered substantial literary expression? There is some argument the directions could rise to that level, because there is a mention of specific dimensions and cutter. Although I don’t think it’s a strong position, there is some argument that there could be a copyright claim.

While I did not discuss this in my prior post, here we have an example of what could be a derivative work. In the United States, the Copyright Act defines “derivative work” in 17 U.S.C. § 101

A “derivative work” is a work based upon one or more pre-existing works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted. A work consisting of editorial revisions, annotations, elaborations, or other modifications which, as a whole, represent an original work of authorship, is a “derivative work”.

The original blog says she adapted the recipe. That would mean she used a pre-existing work. Is that pre-existing work subject to copyright? I don’t know about the specific recipe. Although, the cookbook from which it came certainly is.

If the prior recipe was not copyrightable, the new work would not be copyrightable to the extent the directions are the same or similar. To be copyrightable, a derivative work must be different enough from the original to be regarded as a “new work” or must contain a substantial amount of new material. Without seeing the original recipe, I can not say for certain but with only a few special aspects to the directions claiming copyright would be a very difficult argument to make.

In this particular instance, it is clear the copyright claim would be tenuous at best. And if the recipe is not subject to copyright, there is little if any protection against someone taking it and using. The issue of plagiarism doesn’t come in to play because the second blog actually credited the recipe both in the post and by tagging in Facebook. The credit was provided, as Cookbook Queen mentioned, although in a smaller font and not quite as obvious and maybe it could have been.

So what to do when there is likely no copyright claim for the recipe, nor was there plagiarism? There is still the issue of the copyright for the photo, for which that alone Cookbook Queen could ask that the image not be used without whatever attribution she wishes, if she so wishes to even permit use of her photo. It is, after all, her copyrighted image. The issue of the use of a trademark would be handled separately by the trademark holder.

When excluding the copyright issue of the photo, this situation likely comes down to ethics, standards and best practices. Obviously Cookbook Queen did not like her recipe being taken by this ‘bigger blogger’ and she asked that there be better attribution. It appears that bigger blogger was not happy and has since taken down the post and put up an explanation post. Bigger blogger likely did not appreciate getting an email from a ‘smaller blogger’ asking for better attribution.

This situation clearly demonstrates the differences of what the standards and best practices are among bloggers. When there is no law to lean on, all we have is our ethics and standards and any best practices that are out there. Clearly, bigger blogger and Cookbook Queen do not see eye to eye on these. But what it comes down to is that if you’re so in love with someone’s work, copyrighted or not, send your readers to them.

Your readers go to your blog because they love you and appreciate all that you share. They’re not going to abandon you. And if you’re a bigger blog, showcasing smaller bloggers is terrific. Why, though, use a smaller font to tell your readers how to find the original post? And why do a cut and paste job instead of just sending your readers to the other blog?

Maybe it’s not illegal to have taken Cookbook Queen’s recipe, but it’s definitely not cool!

What are your thoughts? Do you think ‘bigger blogger’ did anything wrong? Did Cookbook Queen over-react? How would you have handled this?

Disclosure: While I am a lawyer, I am not offering legal advice. Posts on legal matters are intended to provide legal information and do not create an attorney/client relationship. This post is part of my Blog Law Series.


Blog Law – FTC Disclosures and You

On December 1, 2009, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) updated their rules regarding advertising disclosures. It was the first time that the rules specifically brought bloggers under the FTC rules and guidelines. And the blogging world, since then, has been trying to figure out what to do.

The FTC provisions are set out in 16 CFR Part 255. That’s fancy talk for the Code of Federal Regulations, which is where Federal rules and codes are made public. It’s a lengthy legalese-filed document, crafted by a team of very knowledgeable and capable attorneys and regulators. But it’s not in plain English and has left a great deal of room for interpretation.

The FTC rules pertaining to bloggers are not specific. There is no numbered list telling bloggers exactly how to comply with the new rules. And that has created a wide range of responses by bloggers from many different niches. Some are up-front and suggest overt and clearly placed disclosures. Others believe that they put it on a ‘Disclosure Policy’ page and that it’s up to the reader to read it.

While the FTC does not provide a clear set of what a blogger can and can not do, it is very clear in the guidelines that all disclosures must be “clear and conspicuous“. You’re thinking, that sounds very legalese so what does that mean in English?

For several decades, the FTC didn’t concern itself with bloggers. However, it was due to a rise in complaints by consumers regarding what they deemed to be unethical practices that caused the FTC to step in. Our government is very paternalistic. Bloggers on their own were not able to standardize the practice of disclosure so the FTC stepped in and basically said ‘If you’re not going to do it, we’ll do it for you.’ It became increasingly difficult to determine what was or was not an advertisement or endorsement, so the guidelines are trying to set up a paradigm where it’s clear what the relationship is between the parties.

Continue reading “Blog Law – FTC Disclosures and You”


What Type of Business Should I Form?


What Business Type Should I Form

If you’ve been blogging for any time, you’ve probably come across people who have talked about incorporating yourself/your blog.  Blogging as a business is not a new phenomenon.   Making money from blogging, however, is becoming a reality for more and more people.  As such, you may want to consider becoming a business.  Why, you ask?

Having a formal business structure offers a host of financial and legal advantages, as wel as a level of professionalism.  From being able to deduct legitimate expenses, building up Social Security credits, or even paying yourself a salary, a formal business structure can give your blogging a sense of legitimacy.

A formal business structure can also show brands and PR agencies that you are a real business not just a hobby. It also lends credibility to you and your information when approaching outsiders for sponsorships.  In addition, most business structures allow you to shift liability to your business and away from you personally.

While each state has its own laws, there are several basic structures you can choose for your blogging business.  The four main types of business structures are (1) sole proprietor, (2) corporation, (3) limited liability company or limited liability corporation (LLC), or (4) partnership.  Each has its benefits and drawbacks.  The best one, though, will depend on your specific circumstances.

Sole Proprietor

A sole proprietor is one person who owns a business.  Up until the 1980s, this was the only way one person could own a business if they did not want to go through the process of becoming a corporation.  Being a sole-proprietor does not require any type of special filing with your state.

In most cases you will not need to obtain a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN), you will just use your social security number.  Although, using an EIN does mean that you don’t have to give out your social security number. And it also make you look more professional to outside ventures.  Some of the benefits include deducting legitimate business expenses, paying your kids, and using health care reimbursement arrangements.

Continue reading “What Type of Business Should I Form?”


What To Do When Your Online Content Is Copied

What to do when someone steal your online content

If you went to Blissdom and attended the Ignorance Is Not Bliss ‘Lawsome’ panel, then you had the fun of a sing-a-long. Sure, there were technical difficulties but everyone was a great sport and sang along to my new words to YMCA as they applied to the law and blogging. That all stemmed from a guest post I wrote about blog copying.

When I was in law school learning about copyright and intellectual property, I had a very heavy laptop computer. Copying music meant making a mixed tape if you had a dual cassette tape or if you were lucky enough to have a CD/Cassette tape player you could record your CD. But music copying wasn’t all that easy, although it was done. Copying off the internet was done, but only by ‘hackers’ or ‘bad guys’. The internet existed but not anything like we know it today.

In the years since, I’ve spent plenty of time online. My first website was created in 1993. By today’s standards a 6 month old child could probably do better that what I’d done. Over the past 14 years, I’ve learned about the legal rights that grow with each of these platforms. Remember Napster? It wasn’t a problem until artists realized they were getting ripped off. Gone were the days of recording music on a crappy cassette from the radio or your own boombox or relying on your friends to let you borrow their album. No longer are we relegated to having to use an electric typewriter or mimeograph machine to plagiarise.

Now, with the click of a mouse or touchpad anyone in any corner of the world can copy what you do and wholesale pawn it off as their own (plagiarism, at minimum). There isn’t much effort needed to steal not only words but also all the effort and ownership that goes with those words. And with enough know-how, people are creating bots and spiders to automate the copying process.

The written word has long been protected by copyright. And for well over 100 years, the US has recognized ownership of a person’s written work. Bloggers words are protected by copyright. And you don’t have to put a disclaimer on every page or any fancy wording. From the moment you hit publish, on works that are sufficiently original and meet the necessary requirements, you have a copyright. Plain and simple. Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s in the public domain.

It’s not a laughing matter either. Many bloggers, big and small, have been copied. Copying a small blogger may seem like no big deal, arguing that they don’t have many readers. But what one may define as a small or less influential blogger is irrelevant. Copyright does not have as a defense ‘but I’m bigger than them’ or ‘but I’m smaller and not many people read it’.

What do you do if your work has been copied? Besides wanting to find the person and flame them openly on twitter . Or write a ranting post and hope they copy it and look ever more foolish. Or get all your friends in social media to give them a digital beat down.

Following are steps you can take if

your blog or website has been copied

1. Verify the copying – scan for duplication using a service like Copyscape. I don’t suggest doing a right-click and cutting and pasting the post from their page. If it is an image, be absolutely sure that it is your image. Verifying is usually pretty easy.

2. Document the copying – screen cap the offending material, print it out, PDF it. Whatever you do, get a copy of the material and make sure it is date/time stamped so you can further authenticate if the situation escalates. The goal here is to have proof that their material came AFTER yours. Do not rely solely on posting times. There are ways to make it appear that a post was made prior to when it really was. Be aware of this as it may come up.

3. If this is the first time this person has copied your post or image, send a nice email. You can often get some form of contact information on their site. If it’s a legitimate site there will be a way to contact them, even if it’s an embedded  contact form. It’s better if you can get an actual email so you have record of the contact. But, if the only way is to use a built-in form then use that. You should also check out domain registrars to determine if there is an email contact available. Use a site such as Who Is to find out who owns a domain. What do you say? (A) Identify the post in question both on your site and theirs. (B) State you have a copyright and ask them to do whatever it is you want such as take it down, link back, edit, etc. (C) Give them at least 24 hours and verify that whatever you asked to be done is done (D) Tell them how to contact you.

4. For repeat offenders or those who did not respond to the previous nice email, you’ll need to escalate your response. This is where you get to send the “Cease and Desist” letter (or email). A “Cease and Desist” letter is a formal legal document telling the copyright violator to take down the offending material or risk further legal action. These SHOULD NOT be sent without getting legal advice, even if it’s a call to your brother’s neighbor’s son’s soccer coach who is an attorney. Get professional advice! The Cease and Desist letter/email should be copied to the domain registrar, host and the major search engines’ legal departments. Each of these entities will have something on their websites telling you where to direct legal notices.

5. If nice didn’t work and ‘guess you didn’t think I was serious’ didn’t get any result, the big guns come out. With this, GET A LAWYER or DMCA Specialist! You will need to file what is known as a DMCA Complaint. See Google DMCA Complaint information. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is part of the US Copyright laws and specifically addresses copyright as it applies to the internet. The penalties for misuse of the DMCA Complaint are significant, so if you’re at this point because your blog is being copied and it’s causing you irreparable harm and loss of income then spend a few (hundred) bucks and get someone to do this who knows what they are doing. If the offender is found to have violated your copyright, the rewards can be significant.

6. Copyright laws and the DMCA do not require you to take any interim steps to have your copyrighted works taken down from any site that is violating your copyright. I suggest sending an email and a Cease and Desist out of courtesy, not because it is required by law. I do not always send them, depending on the circumstances. Then again, I am a lawyer and I have experience with this. I am not suggesting you resort to going straight to a DMCA Complaint, nor am I saying that you have to wait it out.

Copyright infringement of blog material is becoming more and more prevalent. It bothers me both as a blogger and as a lawyer because the topics you can write on are seemingly endless. Diana Adams of both Bit Rebels and Ink Rebels has even done the work for you in her post 100 Sources of Blogging Inspiration.

Copying someone else’s material says a lot about you as a person. Not only does it diminish SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for both sites, it speaks volumes to PR professionals and other bloggers. I understand that mistakes happen. New bloggers don’t always know the rules. Seasoned bloggers may not realize you shouldn’t do something like this. But if you make a mistake, apologize and take down the post. Don’t get up in arms, badmouth the blogger you copied or do anything public that you will likely regret later. The blogoshpere will rally around the injured. Believe me on that one!

You may also be interested in reading:

Know Your Digital Rights – Blog Etiquette

Know Your Digital Rights – Recipe Copyright

For other articles about the legal implications of being online, check out my series on blog law and online rights.

Disclosure: While I am a lawyer, I am not offering legal advice. Posts on legal matters are intended to provide legal information and do not create an attorney/client relationship. This post is part of my Blog Law Series.

photo credit: Horia Varlan used under Creative Commons, text added by Sara Hawkins


Recipe Copyright

Recipe Copyright Laws

Speaking at Blissdom about the legal issues related to blogging showed me that there are many bloggers who have questions about copyright. It also made realize that there is a lot of erroneous information out there. So I am creating this little series called Know Your Digital Rights. Today I’ll cover some of the issues that came up with food bloggers.

How do I protect my recipe from being copied?

Creating a meal is one thing. Write it down step by step, ingredient by ingredient is painstaking, tedious and not to mention time consuming. So it’s no wonder that very few recipes are truly original. Most recipes have been adapted from family favorites, modified because you want to simplify the ingredients or method or re-created from a handfull of similar recipe that you’ve taken the best from each.

Once the recipe is perfected, tested, and photographed nine-hundred and thirty two times, you blog about it and post pictures and further bask in what surely will be loving and wonderful comments of your faithful readers. Then you hit publish and wait for the Google Alert to warn you that someone has just done their finest cut and paste job and posted your recipe on their blog. And because they are so genuinely nice they even gave you a ‘shout out’, which is how you know you’ve been loved on so nicely. Now what? (besides wanting to beat them with a wet homemade noodle)

Plagiarism? Copyright violation? Rogue food blogger? Whatever it is, you’re having none of it!

Plagiarism is not illegal. Unethical, sure. Preventable by law, no. Plagiarism is the unauthorized use of another’s work represented as your own. Being that there are no legal constructs for it with regard to your recipe you’re better off  focusing your efforts on other theories. Your post, to some degree, is protected by copyright but the recipe itself may not be. And if they gave you a ‘shout out’ or somehow attributed that recipe to you then they’re not claiming it as their own and plagiarism will not apply.

Copyright sounds like it should apply. And it may, if the ingredient list AND its instructions are lifted verbatim or “substantially”. In general, US Copyright applies to original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium. “Original” means that an author produced a work by his or her own intellectual effort instead of copying or modifying it from an existing work. “Fixed in a tangible medium” means that the work is able to be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated. Your blog is the necessary ‘tangible medium’.

Continue reading “Recipe Copyright”


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.

Continue reading “Know Your Digital Rights – Blog Etiquette”