Sexual acts, like creative endeavors, are often more fun with a partner. But just like sex there are risks when playing with another. Simple copyright management will keep you banging out blog posts year after year without the nagging fear that someone will show up at your door with a baby bump. And hey, safety is sexy. Think of copyright management as a condom for your blog.
Nearly every creative utterance is a piece of intellectual property. In the United States (and in many other countries) the moment you fix an idea to a medium it becomes intellectual property. That’s a beautiful moment. Imagine that. Ideas are floating around in your head not worth a damn to the rest of world. Suddenly the idea clicks together. You write it on a computer screen and press save. Your idea is now property and is afforded a host of protections. You have the right to control and defend your intellectual property to the ground, like a mamma bear. And you have the weight of the U.S. Federal Government behind you.
The thing is, nearly everyone gets that protection (certain government agencies do not have copyright protection). It is easy to imagine that the Internet is a world of content that is free to use, when in fact almost none of it is. So here are some suggestions on how to cover your ass while still having a good time.
Find The Owner
Every creative work has an owner. It probably isn’t Wikipedia or Google images. They are content hosts and don’t own much of the content they leverage but they should provide a clue to the owner in the metadata that accompanies the work.
Know Your Rights
Once you have found the owner and have determined the work is not in the Public Domain you should then find out what rights of use the owner grants you, if any. The advent of the Creative Commons has simplified and sped up this search immensely. Save a copy of the license and follow the terms of the license.
You will notice that every Creative Commons license requires attribution. Attribution or crediting is essential. How credits are displayed my be dictated by the owner but generally you can put the credit on the work, near it on the page, on a separate credits page, or even in the metadata that appears when you hover your curser over the work. Many creators only require attribution. They want people to use their content but they want credit for it. So give them credit. That will go a long way to avoiding problems.
If You Go Pro, Reevaluate
Many creators are fine with poor bloggers using their content without payment as long as you credit them. But the moment you use their works in a commercial product, they may change their tune. Cover your ass and request permission, even if they have a CC or other established license. They have the right to change their mind but if you have them locked into a contract, they have to honor it.
This blog post does not constitute legal advice. Eugene Noale is not a lawyer. Eugene Noale accepts no liability for actions taken or not taken after reading this post.