I like to think that I know a little more about copyright than your average bear. One reason for that is because bears aren’t governed by the laws of man, and they’re therefore unconcerned with things as silly as intellectual property. The other reason is because copyright influences both my day job and this blog. As an archivist, we deal a lot with copyright. My specific archive has mostly things that we already own copyright to, but many places have to figure out their collections’ copyright situation. And as a blogger, I want to make sure that the content I spend a lot of time producing is safe and covered. A basic knowledge of copyright is something I think every blogger should know, so we’re getting a quick intro today!
Please note that since I am based in the US, I’m only covering American copyright information today. Sorry everyone else, but I never learned your stuff in graduate school! Additionally, I am not a lawyer and nothing I say constitutes legal advice. If you have questions about your specific situation, contact a lawyer.
An Intro to Copyright
What Actually Is Copyright?
Good q! Copyright ensures that the creator of a work has the exclusive right to distribute the content they create and to control how others use it for a certain period of time. Basically, your creativity is being rewarded by allowing you, and only you (or folks you choose) to make theoretical $$$ off of what you make.
What Do I Create That’s Protected?
Well, a lot.
- Photos you take are copyrighted by you.
- Photos you have a professional photographer take for you could be copyrighted by you or the photographer. It depends on the contract they have with you.
- Blog posts you write on your own blog are copyrighted by you.
- Blog posts you write on other people’s blogs could be copyrighted by you or by the blog owner. Again, it depends on the contract.
What’s Not Protected?
Not as much.
- Photos you repost from other people.
- Posts you lift in large part from someone else.
- A pattern you use designed by someone else.
Additionally, copyright doesn’t protect things like your Instagram handle or blog title. If your blog is called “Sarah Sews,” anyone else can use that as their blog name as well. To legally protect something like that, you have to file for a trademark.
How Do I Claim Copyright?
Cool fact: by creating whatever it is you’ve created, you now have the copyright! You don’t have to do anything like register, or fill out paperwork, or even put the little copyright mark on it. You’re all set.
There is an official copyright registry, though, which can seem confusing. Registering your blog with the US Copyright Office helps you sue people for stealing your content. This really is a system aimed more at print producers, though. You’d have to re-register every time you write a new post for it to be covered by your registry, which is just not feasible. Since blogs are digital, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act protects your content from digital reposting. If someone steals your content, you can report that theft to whoever is hosting that theft. So, you report a stolen blog post to their host (WordPress, etc.), or stolen images to Pinterest if that’s where you’re finding them.
Hey, Why Do You Have Disclaimers Then?
Because not everyone knows about copyright! The disclaimer in my footer reminds the uninitiated that my content is my property, so don’t steal it! It also lets people know that I know about copyright, which might deter any savvier thieves.
I also have a use disclaimer on my Legal Stuff page. Part of the fun of the sewing community is the sense of sharing that goes on. Reading people’s posts is an important factor in what patterns I sew and what fabric I use, and I love seeing a good roundup! My disclaimer lets people know what I think is fair in terms of picture borrowing. Anything beyond that and you’re getting an angry-but-polite email, and/or a DMCA notification! I work really hard on posts, makes, and photos, so I want to be sure that I’m getting credit for them. It’s not greedy or self-righteous: it’s good business, and knowing your worth!
Want to include some disclaimers in your own work? Feel free to get the copyright notification off the footer of my blog and paste it into yours — you technically don’t even have to update the year! You can also use my use disclaimer. If you copy/paste the disclaimer, please do link back to me somehow (maybe a “disclaimer courtesy of MaddieMadeThis.com”?).
Anyways, I hope that this has demystified the issue some! Here are some really helpful links:
- What registering copyright for a blog entails
- How WordPress deals with DMCA notifications
- The difference between copyright, trademark, and registration
These links and a few more are over on my Pinterest board. I hope having all the links for the series is helpful for you guys! Next week we’ll get back into fun stuff: commenting!