The 3 Most Common Copyright Mistakes Bloggers Make

Do Over

Do OverCopyright is a notoriously confusing and complicated area of law, but one that also impacts nearly every part of our daily lives. As such, it is pretty much inevitable that well-intended people are going to make mistakes.

However, with copyright law, blunders can be very costly. In addition to the threat of a lawsuit, one can have their site shut down, access to some of their favorite services revoked and lose a lot of credibility. Even if none of those things comes to pass, a copyright dispute is still a major headache and one that most, if given the choice, would prefer to avoid.

As such, it’s important for bloggers to be aware of some of the more common copyright pitfalls that come from blogging and, more importantly, how to avoid them.

With that in mind, here are three of the most common copyright blunders bloggers make and what can be done to prevent yourself from falling into them. Fortunately, all are easy mistakes to see and avoid, if you know to look for them. [Read more…]

What Bloggers Need to Know About Trademark Law


There are three major types of intellectual property law: Copyright, Patent and Trademark.

The distinction between the three can often be confusing and gray, but in general copyright protects artistic expressions (literature, movies, photos, music, etc.), patents protect ideas and inventions and trademark protects any “mark” associated with a business.

However, trademark is very different from other areas of intellectual property. You don’t run afoul of the law simply by copying the mark itself but, as a tradeoff, trademarks can protect a much wider variety of things that would not fall under any other area of protection.

Yet, at the same time, trademark often overlaps with copyright, especially when dealing with some logos, and there is a great deal of confusion between copyright and trademark in discussions online.

All in all, trademark is a thorny and often misunderstood area of intellectual property law that demands a closer look, especially if you routinely write about companies or use trademarks in your post.

So what do you need to know about trademarks? The basics are below.

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Content Licensing 101 for Bloggers


As we talked about last week, whenever you post a blog entry, upload a photograph to your Flickr account or post a video to YouTube, you’re creating copyrighted work and sharing it with the Internet.

As the creator and copyright holder of that work, you have certain rights and protections over it, including the ability to bar others from making unauthorized copies or publicly display/perform the work.

However, you might not want to enforce all of those rights. For example, you might be perfectly happy to let others copy your work and post it on their sites provided they give attribution back. Or, you might be happy to have them print out copies for their personal use so long as they don’t attempt to sell them.

This is where content licensing comes into play. It’s the means by which you give someone (or everyone) a certain amount of rights to use your work even though that use, without your permission, would have been a copyright infringement.

As such, it’s important to understand the basics of copyright licensing and what some of the options are out there. This is so you can maximize what you get out of your writing and, equally importantly, prevent misunderstandings and accidental infringements by others.

With that in mind, here’s a basic rundown of what you need to know to be savvy about content licensing on the Web.
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5 Copyright Facts Every Blogger Should Know

Copyright Symbol

Copyright SymbolWhen it comes to blogging and the law, there is one area of the law that you pretty much can not avoid: Copyright.

Though you can avoid libel by never talking about anyone else, the same goes for privacy, and you can largely avoid trademark by being careful with your domain and not creating a business, it is impossible to blog and avoid copyright.

The reason is simple, every time you hit “Safe Draft” in WordPress, post a comment on another blog or take a photo for your site, you’ve created a copyrighted work and with that comes a set of rights and responsibilities you need to be aware of.

However, the issue of copyright is far too broad and far too complex to cover in any kind of depth in one column. So, in order to help bloggers who might not understand the law get some basic information, here are five copyright facts that you need to be aware of, all of which we will likely go into in future columns.

Bear in mind that these facts are based on U.S. law and, in some cases, may vary in your country. You can also read more about these facts, and other basic copyright information, on the U.S. Copyright Office website. [Read more…]

Blogging and the Law: A New Column at the Blog Herald


Hello. My name is Jonathan Bailey. I’m the new guy here at the Blog Herald, once again, and I’m starting up a new column that will be running every Friday targeting the law and blogging. We’ll be tackling some of the major legal issues that bloggers face as they run their sites.

Many of you may already know me from the various sites I have either written for or currently write at. This includes a previous stint here at The Blog Herald, my ongoing Blogging Pitfalls column at BloggingPro, my hosting-related column at WhoIsHostingThis and, of course, my home site of Plagiarism Today, where I talk about copyright and plagiarism issues on the Web.

To be clear, I am not an attorney and nothing in any of my columns should be considered legal advice, but I have studied the law as it applies to mass media for over 12 years, come from a journalism background and have been studying copyright especially closely for over ten.

My goal with this column is to include a variety of pieces including general information pieces about how the law, in particular U.S. law, applies to blogging, legal news and rulings that might affect bloggers and also answer some of your questions as time permits.

With that in mind, here are just a few of the topic areas that this column will cover moving forward: [Read more…]

Saying Farewell to the Blog Herald

On March 15, 2007 I wrote my first article for The Blog Herald. It was a very basic piece about fair use and blogging, sticking to my “home field” of copyright and blogging legal issues. Since then, nearly every Monday, I’ve written a column, well over 125 total.

During all of this time, I made a lot of great friends and covered a lot of topics. Though I started in just the legal field, I quickly branched out into other areas that might be of interest to bloggers including WordPress-related news as well was tips, tricks and applications that I discovered as well as blogging news.

However, today is the day where I announce that my time with the Blog Herald is now at an end. It has been a wonderful two-and-a-half years, but a lot has changed in that time. The biggest change is that, in August, I joined, a Web startup I now manage that deals with practical copyright enforcement. It is that project that now takes up the bulk of my time.

As the year winds down to a close, with Paul Scrivens taking over as SplashPress’ Media Publisher and a bright future ahead for the Blog Herald, as well as all of SplashPress’ sites, the time has come for me to step aside both to focus on my new ventures and make room for the new faces and ideas to come to the site.

So, in this, my last column for the Blog Herald, I wanted to take a moment to give thanks to everyone who has helped me over the years here, especially Mark Saunders for taking a chance on an unknown bloggers such as myself, the many editors I have worked with over the years here at the Blog Herald and the other writers here who I have worked with proudly.

Thank you very much everyone for two and a half great years and I’m looking forward to seeing what great things come from the Blog Herald in the coming months and years.

I may not be writing my usual Monday columns, but I will definitely be around…

WordPress 2.9 Released Plus an Extra Surprise



On Saturday Automattic announced the release of WordPress 2.9, the newest version of their popular blogging platform, bringing with it a whole new slate of features, bug fixes and other improvements.

With the update also comes the usual mix of upgrade heartburn including broken plugins, fractured themes and the general time of uploading. However, those issues have already been largely mitigated by previous features, including the automatic upgrade feature, and new ones, including multiple plugin updates and plugin compatibility checks.

So as WordPress users hover their mouse over “Update” buttons, be they in WordPress or their host’s control panel, the question becomes what’s new and is it worthwhile for me?

The answer, from what I’ve seen, seems to be a resounding “Yes!” [Read more…]

5 Legal Issues to Watch in 2010

The blogging legal climate is one of constant change. Though certain issues will always be of critical importance to bloggers, as they will to anyone who is a part of mass media, there is always a great deal that’s in flux.

This is especially true for bloggers as legislators and judges are just beginning to take on many of the complicated issues that blogging and democratized media brings with it. But where 2009 was a busy year for bloggers on the legal front, 2010 promises to be even more so.

In many ways, 2009 was a set up year for what is going to happen in 2010. In fact, the easiest way to decide what will likely be some of the hottest legal topics in the new year is to look back over the past one and see where the dominoes are likely to fall.

With that in mind, here are five legal areas bloggers should be paying attention to in the new year as they have the potential to be major forces in the blogging world. [Read more…]

The Blurring Line Between Blogs and Forums

What separates a blog and a forum? It’s not as simple of an answer as it was just a few years ago.

Forums have long been making use of RSS feeds and some have even adopted more blog-like layouts. Now many forum applications have begun sending pingbacks and trackbacks to articles linked in posts, an activity that began and, previously was limited to, blogs.

However, blogs have also begun to become more and more forum-like. Though comments have always been a major part of blogging, many are also encouraging original submissions. They are also placing a heavier emphasis on comments and services such as Disqus and Intense Debate provide greater commenter identity and cross-site accounts.

In short, where forums have been pulling from the playbook of blogs in their newest features, blogs have been gradually becoming more community-oriented, turning away from the author-oriented approach they are often associated with.

This has had the effect of blurring the lines between the two and confusing many who are building new sites.

To help make sense of it, I decided to turn to my long-time friend, podcast co-host and all-around community expert Patrick O’Keefe in hopes he could provide some insights into their similarities and differences as well as help sites decide which format is right for them. [Read more…]

Why Lowering the Barriers to Blogging is a Good Thing

During a recent conversation about WordPress with some fellow bloggers, the issue of WordPress’ 2.9 features came up.

Though I am a heavy WordPress user, running it on half a dozen blogs and writing for three other sites that use it, I wasn’t particularly blown away by the feature list. Though some things struck me as nice, such as post thumbnails and a “trash” can, and others seem to have great long term potential, such as comment metadata and custom post types, many of the much-touted features didn’t seem to be that useful to me.

Image editing is a nice idea, but I already have more image editors than I can count. Likewise, the easier media embedding seemed odd as I’ve never once felt it was too hard or too time-consuming to embed a clip into my site. Copying and pasting a few lines of code just is not that intimidating to me.

But my friends then pointed out something to me, these features weren’t intended for me. Old hats such as myself might grow to find these features convenient, but they certainly aren’t necessary.

They aren’t tools for the people who are blogging vets, but for those who want to start blogging, will be soon or just started. New blogging users, especially those without a lot of technical expertise, have different needs and they are changing the way CMSs, including WordPress, design and build their systems. These changes will affect all of us but, in the long run, will have a positive impact. [Read more…]