Copyright Laws for Blogs

by Angela Floyd

    In the U.S., you have copyright in your blog as soon as you write it. If others want to use the original contents of your blog, they must get your permission. Registration provides additional legal rights but can be burdensome. Initial registration is fairly simple, but revisions and updates usually need to be registered individually, with a separate application and filing fee. Since you will be changing content frequently, you’ll need to weigh the costs and benefits and consider other options.

    Copyright Basics for Online Content

    You can register your blog with the U.S. Copyright Office. Registration will extend to all of the original content you identify and submit to the copyright office with your application. The original text, links, images, audiovisual materials and sound recordings are all copyrightable. Facts are not. Revisions and updates to your blog, however, will not be covered. Since you will likely be changing your blog content frequently and others will be posting content via comments, you may want to consider other options to protect your blog.

    Using Copyright Protected Work

    If you want to use someone else’s copyright protected work on your blog, you must get his permission. Under the "fair use" doctrine of U.S. copyright laws, you can use limited portions of a work without permission, including quotes, for some purposes such as book reviews, classroom lessons, scholarly reports and news reports. In addition to fair use, if the copyright for a work has expired, the work is considered to be “in the public domain,” and you can use that work for free, no permission necessary. Check with the copyright office to verify copyright. When in doubt, get permission.

    Copyright Notice

    You can post a copyright notice to your blog. A notice is not a requirement for copyright protection, but it can deter accidental or "innocent” infringement. You may also use the notice to state your policy on what can and cannot be copied from your online content.

    Creative Commons License

    If you’d like more flexibility than full copyright, can get a Creative Commons license. This license lets you reserve some but not all rights. You can choose to allow others to copy, distribute, or display your content but with restrictions, such as by attribution only (credit to you), noncommercial use only, or no alterations. You can even allow derivative works under a share-alike creative commons license. You can structure your creative commons license any way you like and post the license on your blog.

    Digital Millenium Copyright Act

    If you find unauthorized copies of your blog on another Internet site, you can contact the infringer’s Internet Service Provider (ISP). Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), you can ask the ISP to either delete the infringing material from its servers or prevent it from being accessed. The “notice and takedown” provision of the DMCA requires that you give the ISP proper notice when requesting a takedown. This notice should identify your copyrighted work and the infringing material. You must also provide a statement that you are the copyright holder, as well as provide your signature and contact information.

    About the Author

    Based in the Washington, D.C. area, Angela Floyd is an intellectual property, consumer and business law attorney. Floyd holds a Juris Doctor from Georgetown University Law Center as well as a Master of Arts in English and political science from Case Western Reserve University.

    Photo Credits

    • Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images