Recently, someone asked me the following question on Formspring:
“I just started a blog and I’m interested in posting images from editorials. How do I correctly credit the images? Whose names should I include (model, photographer, publication etc) and should I link back to where I found the images?”
This is an excellent question, and it happened to come in right around the time I wrote Trademarks—What You Need to Know, so instead of responding on Formspring, I thought a full post would be helpful to many. The truth is we’re all more likely to infringe on another’s copyright (accidentally, of course), or fall victim to copyright infringement (Ellegate, anyone?), than ever have to worry about trademark infringement.
As I indicated in my post on trademarks, I am not an attorney. As such, I cannot advise anyone on this subject from a legal perspective. What I have done is pulled together info that answers the questions above. I don’t know who submitted the question to me, but I hope this post helps!
Copyright In a Nutshell
A quick study of United States copyright as it pertains to your content is easily digested via these U.S. Copyright Office FAQs:
What is copyright?
Copyright is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works.
What does copyright protect?
Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “What Works Are Protected.”
How is a copyright different from a patent or a trademark?
Copyright protects original works of authorship, while a patent protects inventions or discoveries. Ideas and discoveries are not protected by the copyright law, although the way in which they are expressed may be. A trademark protects words, phrases, symbols, or designs identifying the source of the goods or services of one party and distinguishing them from those of others.
When is my work protected?
Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.
Do I have to register with your office to be protected?
No. In general, registration is voluntary. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Copyright Registration.”
But what about your blog name and domain name? This excerpt of the U.S. Copyright Office page, What Does Copyright Protect?, provides an explanation…though I do suggest you read Trademarks—What You Need to Know if you haven’t:
Can I copyright my website?
The original authorship appearing on a website may be protected by copyright. This includes writings, artwork, photographs, and other forms of authorship protected by copyright. Procedures for registering the contents of a website may be found in Circular 66, Copyright Registration for Online Works.
Can I copyright my domain name?
Copyright law does not protect domain names. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a nonprofit organization that has assumed the responsibility for domain name system management, administers the assignation of domain names through accredited register
How do I copyright a name, title, slogan or logo?
Copyright does not protect names, titles, slogans, or short phrases. In some cases, these things may be protected as trademarks. Contact the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, 800-786-9199, for further information. However, copyright protection may be available for logo artwork that contains sufficient authorship. In some circumstances, an artistic logo may also be protected as a trademark.
Blog tip: The correct form for a notice is: “Copyright [dates] by [author/owner]”. You can use C in a circle © instead of “Copyright” but “(C)” has never been given legal force. Using “All Rights Reserved” isn’t required. [ Source: 10 Big Myths about copyright explained ]. Alt 0169 is the keyboard code for creating the © copyright symbol on your blog.
Copyright and Blogs
I discovered an incredible post by Smashing Magazine which is really all you need to read about copyright—and in plain English. The following two subsections are excerpts of Copyright Explained: I May Copy It, Right?
Copyright in the Web: An Overview
- Copyright applies to the Web.
- Your work is protected under copyright as soon as it’s created and protected for your lifetime, plus 70 years.
- Copyright expires. When copyright expires, the work becomes public domain.
- Ideas can’t be copyrighted, only the result tangible expression of the idea can. (updated)
- You may use logos and trademarks in your works.
- You may use copyrighted material under the “fair use” doctrine.
- You may quote only limited portions of work. You may publish excerpts, not whole articles.
- You have to ask author’s permission to translate his/her article.
- The removal of the copyrighted material doesn’t remove the copyright infringement.
- If something looks copyrighted, you should assume it is. (updated)
- Advertising protected material without an agreement is illegal.
- You may not always delete or modify your visitors’ comments.
- User generated content is the property of the users.
- Copyright is violated by using information, not by charging for it.
Bloggers’ Rights and Duties
- Ignorance of the Law does not make one exempt from compliance thereof. You carry the full responsibility for everything you publish in your weblog. Using protected work, make sure you fulfill your legal obligations.
- Be aware of your responsibility. Check your facts, consider the implications, control the comments, give credit where credit is due, disclose professional relationships, disclose sponsored posts, avoid “blackhat” methods. [10 Rules for Responsible Blogging]
- Make it easy to distinguish paid and editorial content. “Never claim that you are an objective, unbiased source if you are being paid to provide information. Always make it easy for your readers to distinguish between advertising and editorial content.” [12 Important U.S. Laws Every Blogger Needs To Know]
- You should ask author’s permission to translate his/her article. According to the Berne Convention, “Authors of literary and artistic works protected by this Convention shall enjoy the exclusive right of making and of authorizing the translation of their works throughout the term of protection of their rights in the original works.” Therefore you need a permission to translate an article into another language. [What is Copyright?]
- You should not present stolen content. “The law does not provide protection for federal crimes or intellectual property violations, meaning that you can potentially be found contributorily liable if this type of behavior takes place on your site.” [12 Important U.S. Laws].
Using Images and Thumbnails
Bloggers, almost all of us do it—even biggies like The Glamourai—we use images from magazines and other sites on our blogs. Without permission.
Most of us know that images we did not personally create must have some kind source attribution or citation, but the only way to ensure you are protected is to seek permission before using images that do not belong to you. That said, who is actually going to contact a magazine for permission to use a photo on a blog, and if we do not get permission from Vogue or Harper’s Bazaar, are we guilty of copyright infringement?
Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a clear-cut answer to this question, but there is some leeway for image use because of Fair Useand how it relates to copyright law. According to Wikipedia:
Fair use, a limitation and exception to the exclusive right granted by copyright law to the author of a creative work, is a doctrine in United States copyright law that allows limited use of copyrighted material without requiring permission from the rights holders. Examples of fair use include commentary, criticism, news reporting, research, teaching, library archiving and scholarship. It provides for the legal, non-licensed citation or incorporation of copyrighted material in another author’s work under a four-factor balancing test. The term fair use originated in the United States. A similar principle, fair dealing, exists in some other common law jurisdictions.
Apparently, imagery and musical compositions enjoy a higher degree of protection under copyright laws, and fair use does not always provide protection for bloggers using creative works without exclusive permission. Jennine Jacob of Independent Fashion Bloggers (IFB) wrote a very helpful post in 2009 on this very subject; I suggest you all read Fair Use Explained: More on Copyrighted Images on Blogs.
My own interpretation is this, and again, I am not an attorney, and this is not legal advice: If I use an image from a magazine or online source in order to report on it or make commentary, and I do not claim it as my own and provide attribution, and I do not alter the image or profit from it in any way, then it would seem I am complying with the rules of fair use.
Guidelines for Image and Content Use
If you intend to use images or content that are not your original works, for the purpose of commentary, criticism, or reporting, you should:
- Not reproduce an entire work of any sort on your blog.
- Use quotations to indicate content that appears on your blog, verbatim.
- Disclose the source of any quote or excerpt, and include a link to the source.
- Avoid using copyrighted and commercial imagery to represent you or your blog (for example, in your header image).
- Avoid altering images in any way (outside of resizing them to fit your post).
- Cite the artist or photographer’s name, when it is available.
- Disclose the source of the image and include a link to the source.
For more info watch the IFB livestream!
If this loooooong post wasn’t enough and you still have questions about your content and copyright laws, it just so happens that the very first panel for this week’s IFB Evolving Influence Conference isWho Owns Your Blog Content? So catch the livestream if you can’t attend in person, because I’m sure it will be very enlightening.
And there’s no need to worry your lovely heads about where to catch the stream. I’ll have a post up on Thursday that will make it a cinch to watch and follow #IFBCon, from wherever you are in the world.
In the meantime, I have some packing to do!