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This is installment 2 in my Protect Your Blog Series. First we covered watermarking your photos, and next week we’ll be looking at ways to discover if you’ve already been plagiarised.
I have written about copyright before, but it was in relation to patterns and selling goods made from patterns, and obviously what we’re dealing with today is a bit different.
First off, I want you to be assured that anything you’ve written on your blog, and all of the pictures you’ve posted are copyrighted EVEN IF you don’t have a statement or symbol. If it’s your creation, you own the copyright. You do not have to ‘register’ your copyright with anyone for it to be legal. Period.
EXCEPT: Facebook. Here is
For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (“IP content”), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy andapplication settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (“IP License”). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.
That’s right – ANYTHING you upload to Facebook belongs to them. They can do whatever the hell they want from it and never pay you a dime. So if you are uploading pictures of your products, or your patterns, you are giving up the copyright on those photos. And those cute pics of your kid wearing the newest thing you’ve sewn for them? Facebook can use that picture in their advertising and 1) your child’s all over buses and billboards without your permission and 2) you won’t get paid.
So: think VERY carefully about which photos you want to give away to Facebook, and which pictures you want to use for business (or personal) reasons. Because, in theory, they could sue you for infringement for your own photo if you used it for a commercial purpose. For those photos, share them only on your blog or via Flickr, etc, to retain copyright.
But even though all your words and photos are copyrighted by default, it’s still a very good idea to post a copyright notice. There are a few different ways to go about this:
One way is straightforward copyright statements. In these, use both the symbol and the word, your name, and the year: © J C Excell, copyright 2011. This is my generic statement for most posts. You can add more to this if you wish. The copyright statement below all my tutorials says:
© Copyright J C Excell, 2011 You are welcome to use any SewHappyGeek tutorial for personal use. You are even welcome to make a couple to sell, but you are not given permission to use my pictures or my words without giving me credit and linking back to the original. Sometimes my pictures have my family in them and they are never intended for public use. Also, I work very hard to provide free tutorials for my lovely readers, and anyone copying or selling my tutorials is guilty of copyright infringement.
I am using a traditional copyright, with the added statement that as long as I’m given credit and a link back to the original, other users may ‘borrow’ my words or photos. This is, in effect, a ‘Some Rights Reserved’ copyright, as opposed to ‘All Rights Reserved’ which wouldn’t even allow someone to borrow a pic and link back to me. Insisting on ‘All Rights Reserved’ might not be a great idea with blogs, as you do want your content to get as much exposure as possible, and you probably don’t mind if they borrow a photo to do it. (And you’ve watermarked them, right?!) With Some Rights Reserved, you get to decide what those rights are and if someone oversteps them, then they’re guilty of copyright infringement and it’s time to write emails and complain.
There is another type of copyright, which pops up more and more: Creative Commons. It’s fairly new, and to be honest I’m not sure about it yet. It boasts that it has more flexibility than traditional copyright, and you can decide which level of control you wish to exert over your content – so, if it’s shareware, or a wordpress plug-in, you can copyright it so that if someone uses it or tweaks it, they aren’t breaking the law. In the case of blogs and free tutorials, you can copyright your content so that people can use your tutorials, and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.
There are a few other licenses which you can look at if you want to, so I’ll just give my reservations about CC:
- Creative Commons can be a bit complicated, and you should never assume that all your readers will understand what it means. Even if you put a full notice somewhere obvious.
- Creative Commons is NOT grounded in law, either common or legislative, which might make upholding it a bit iffy. It’s a non-profit organisation, not a legal one.
- Traditional copyright is actually pretty flexible – you can choose to license someone to use your work for free, and licensing can be as simple as an email or tweet saying so, or an additional blanket statement like I’ve written above. You can make that statement say whatever you want, and it’s completely covered by both common and legislative law.
- Creative Commons has only been tested in court a few times, and until there’s a bit more precedent, I’m steering clear.
Whatever you do, make sure your statement is somewhere obvious! And make sure you make some kind of copyright statement in every post. It’s your hard work, why not claim it as yours? That way, if you do get ripped off (like I did), when you go to complain, you have a legal grounding to do insist that action be taken. That’s probably what matters the most.
Some people like to think that if you haven’t filed your copyright, or you haven’t overtly stated it, that means you don’t care what happens to it, or that you’re acknowledging that your work somehow doesn’t count as copyrightable. Obviously that’s rubbish. But do yourself a huge favour, and write up a little mini-statement like I have, and attach it to every post, or at least every tutorial. Then NO ONE can claim it’s not copyrighted. And if someone rips it off like I got ripped off, and they’re hosted by Blogger, or Typepad or WordPress.com, you can insist that those companies take down the infringing post. You’ll have proof that the work is yours (important: if need be, they can look in internet archives and confirm that yes, you copyrighted it months before the person stole it.) and they have to take infringement seriously, or they’ll be in breach of international law.
So, will copyrighting your content save you from plagiarism? No, probably not. Watermarking is the best way to go for that. But if your photos are watermarked, AND you have a copyright statement, you have two big legal feet to stand on when you need to insist that it’s your content, not anyone else’s. I really cannot emphasise how freakin’ important that can be! For more information, see the UK’s Intellectual Property Office, or the U.S. Copyright Office website.
If you need help with your wording, or just want someone else to check over it, please email it to me and I’ll help as best as I can: jenna @ sewhappygeek.co.uk (no spaces!) Same goes if you have questions.
I really hope you can use this tutorial – and if you have readers who would benefit from the series, please share what you’ve learned! I really want this to, as my friend Stephanie says, go viral in a good way! I don’t want ANYONE to be ripped off like I was!
© J C Excell, 2011 You are welcome to use any SewHappyGeek tutorial for personal use. But you are not given permission to use my pictures or my words without giving me credit and linking back to the original. Sometimes my pictures have my family in them and they are never intended for public use. Also, I work very hard to provide free tutorials for my lovely readers, and anyone copying or selling my tutorials is guilty of copyright infringement.