How to Handle Unauthorized Use of Your Blog Content

August 20, 2015

dreamstime_s_34425251 bulldog warningIf you are putting blog content on the internet, then at some point you will have to decide whether to lock up your content and give it away.

Some bloggers protect all their work. They post a copyright notice on every page and register the copyright of their web content with the U.S. Copyright Office. They send DMCA takedown notices whenever they find their content reused without permission.

Other bloggers donate their work to the public domain by marking it with a Creative Commons public domain symbol.public domain cc mark

And there are various options in between. For most people, the level of protection is related to the purpose of the blog. If you are marketing your expertise or products, then you might lean heavily toward protection. If your goal is to spread the word about your work or a worthy cause, you may welcome content sharing by anyone and everyone.

Regardless of your preference, let’s take a look at how to execute different levels of protection.

Most Protection

If you want to discourage any reposting of your work without permission, take the following measures:

  • Put a Copyright Notice on each web page. The form is Copyright or © + Date + Name of the Copyright Owner. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. For the date, note each year in which you posted new content. If you have been posting new content for the last five years, you would put Copyright 2010-2015 + your name.
  • Adopt a Copyright Policy. Spell out the rules for people who want to quote your blog. A typical policy says something like you may copy up to 50 words without permission provided you give me attribution, link back to the original content, and do not change the overall meaning or message of my content. Put a link to your policy at the bottom of each page. Label the link Terms of Use or Permissions.
  • Link back to your own blog. Put links in your posts that direct people to other blog posts or other pages on your website. Your analytics software should notify you of “ping backs” and alert you who is displaying the link.
  • Register the copyright in your content. Many people don’t realize that you can register the copyright on your blog and website material. There are a few tricks to registering blog content. I cover the process in this post, How to Register Your Blog with the US Copyright Office.
  • Set up Google Alerts not just for your name, but for your headlines and perhaps a string of unique words in your posts. If you find unauthorized uses of your work, notify the offending website and demand that they remove the material. If that does not work, consider sending a DMCA takedown notice. For more on takedown notices, go here: Step-by-Step Guide to Dealing with Content Theft.
  • Investigate technology tools. Various tools help bloggers disable right-clicks, watermark their work, or imbed devices for alerting them of repostings. The technology is beyond me, and anything I write would probably be obsolete in a week, so check with your tech person about options.

Less Protection

If you want your posts to be shared widely, with some limits such as no commercial use, take the following measures:

  • Mark your work with a Creative Commons license. Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that has developed a set of off-the-shelf licenses for use by copyright holders who wish to make their work widely available for limited or unlimited purposes. There are various Creative Commons licenses, each with its own icon, set of rights, and limitations. Some permit commercial use; others do not. The Creative Commons site has an online tool to help you determine the correct license and icon to use.
  • Put a Copyright Notice on each page. The form is Copyright or © + Date + Name of the Copyright Owner. Add the phrase SOME RIGHTS RESERVED to alert people to review the limitations of your Creative Commons license before they reuse your material.
  • Adopt a Copyright Policy. Even though you are more liberal about uses, you should explain what is and is not permitted with your content. For instance, you still want attribution and a link back to the original.
  • Consider Registering Your Copyright. Although your work may be available under a Creative Commons license, you still own the copyright in the work and may register it. Registration is not necessary. You will own the copyright whether or not you register it. You must register before you sue someone for infringement, but if you think it’s highly unlikely you would ever sue someone for reusing your blog content, you could skip registration.
  • Send DMCA takedown notices. You can still send takedown notices if someone is not complying with the applicable Creative Commons license. For instance, if you post an image and mark it with a Creative Commons non-commercial license, but find someone using the image in an internet advertisement, you should send a takedown notice.

dreamstime_xs_10394442 butterfliesGiving it all away

If you want your work to be shared widely, then say so in your blog. You can mark the work with the Creative Commons symbol for work donated to the public domain.

Some people are quite passionate about making content available for wide use. They argue that blog posts are contributions to the world. Inevitably, your work will be copied and pasted, so just accept it.

That position is too extreme for me. Bloggers work hard on their content. We deserve recognition and compensation, particularly when someone uses our material for commercial uses.

What do you think?

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3 responses to “How to Handle Unauthorized Use of Your Blog Content”

  1. A positive wealth of information – thank you.

    I have to update my wording – I don’t mind if people reblog my posts within reason, reason being MY definition, not theirs.

    I will go over this carefully, decide what I want now, and do it BEFORE publication. So everything is as I want it to be if I suddenly get a bit more traffic. Up to now, I’ve been under the radar for most of the world.

  2. nancy says:

    Do I have to notify anyone if I use ….for example their affirmation..if I use the work in my book …with quotes around it with their name on it
    Thank you

    • Nancy, Any time you use work created by someone else, such as a quote, you need to consider copyright questions. Is the work covered by copyright? Probably yes, unless it was published before 1923. Is your use “fair use?” If you are using short phrases compared to the length of the work itself, for example 25 words of a long essay or novel, then that is probably acceptable. Quotes from poems and songs is more of a problem because the originals works are so short.
      Bottom line, giving someone attribution is not enough. If you are using anything more than a small snippet of the work, you should get permission to use the work from the copyright owner.

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