Using Third Party Content for Blogs

 

 

1 July, 2015
Posted by Jennifer

Using third party content in blogs

Providing the public with anything from ground breaking new stories to photographs of adorable animals (cuteoverload.com, seriously), blogs are undeniably a huge part of today’s society. What started out as single bloggers posting largely personal material has expanded to include multi-authored websites from newspapers, universities, NGOs and corporations, some worth billions of dollars. The increasing quantity of blog traffic is further expanded by services such as blogger.com and wordpress.com, where anyone with some spare time and something to say can become a blogger overnight.

From a legal point of view, however, the world of blogging causes a number of intellectual property issues to arise. The nature of blogging inevitably involves reposting other material or sourcing third party content such as images, videos or written works. All too often this material has been used without permission of the original author. Many people think that just because something is readily available on the Internet it is free to use – not so.

Copyright subsists automatically when certain material is created and is owned by the author of the work. The moment a photographer takes a photo, she is the owner of the copyright of that photo. Unless she assigns or licences the copyright, she retains ownership no matter how well circulated that photo becomes on the Internet. Any use of that photo without her permission is potentially a breach of her copyright, and she may be able to legally enforce her rights. The same is true for videos, drawings, graphic designs, sound recordings and written works such as reviews or news articles.

The best way to avoid liability for copyright infringement is to get permission before using any third party content that you use on your blog. This may involve contacting the person who created the content, or the organisation who owns the content (news corporations, publishers, etc).

Unfortunately for bloggers, paying licence fees for content may not be financially feasible. Even if you are able to afford it, finding the rights-holder of each piece of third party content you wish to use can prove to be an arduous task. Photos and drawings are shared, re-uploaded and edited across multiple channels and platforms and credit is often attributed only to another secondary source, not the original author. A Google image search yields dozens of results for a single photograph, none of which may clearly identify the original rights holder. While it may seem like a free-for-all, it is important that bloggers understand that copyright in other people’s material should be respected, with rights-holders receiving credit or remuneration for their work where appropriate. Failing to do so may incur claims of copyright infringement and other liability.

Many bloggers use third party material without licences although we would never recommend this at Studio Legal. Whilst crediting a third party may go some way to deter that person from bringing legal proceedings against you, it certainly does not provide you with any legal clearance or licence to use that content.

In order to minimise risk of legal liability, there are a few options available in planning how you use third party content on your blog.

Building a user base

Many bloggers, especially fashion bloggers, utilise their user base in order to gain content by encouraging users to upload their own content onto their blog. When they do, according to their terms and conditions, the users grant a non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable licence to the blog for that content, allowing the service to present and commercialise the content without requirement for credit or remuneration to the author.

This is essentially what websites such as Facebook and Instagram do. By posting photos on these websites, depending on the platform’s terms of use, users are usually assigning their proprietary rights in their content to those companies.

In any event, if you wish to allow others to post content on your blog, it is important to note in your website or app terms and conditions that users are not permitted to post content that infringes another’s copyright, and offer a take down procedure as mentioned above. Taking these procedures will show members of the public that you are respectful of third party copyright.

Building relationships with others

Another option to acquire licensed content is to build successful relationships with other blogs or content providers, so that you can acquire rights to use or post links to their content. If you can convince others that your blog will help promote their brand, product or website, you could ask them to sign a simple licensing agreement which allows you to use their content on your platform. This could be a cost effective way to obtain a high volume of quality, ‘on trend’ content. This is easier said than done, and you may need to work your magical marketing abilities to develop these relationships.

Commercial Licencing

Another way to acquire a large volume of legal content is to source and licence materials on a large scale from commercial content providers such as stock photo agencies. Using content provided by these services is a safe way of protecting yourself from liability, but often come with costs and restrictions. Some examples of the bigger names in the business include Getty Images, Bigstock, WGSN and Shutterstock. These services host large libraries of images and other content which are available to use in exchange for membership fees. Licence terms can vary, as can pricing, so it’s advisable to have a close look at the terms of the agreements before signing up.

Creative Commons

The Creative Commons (CC) movement is an alternative form of licencing to traditional copyright. CC allows copyright owners to permit other people to reproduce, share and copy their work without having to grant express permission for every use.

CC material is everywhere, check out our BLOG on the topic for more information.

Public Domain

Content that is not subject to copyright restrictions, or is out of the copyright period is referred to as being in the ‘Public Domain’. Generally, the term of copyright protection for most works is the life of the author plus 70 years, although there are exceptions to this rule – such as photographs taken before 1955 being out copyright.

Public Domain works are mostly free to use, share, copy and commercialise without need for attribution or licence from the original author or copyright owner. Like CC material, Public Domain works can be found through advanced searches and places like the Internet Archive. Be careful when using such material, however as copyright duration and subsistence of rights may vary between jurisdictions.

A rights-holder can also waive (most of the) copyright in their works in certain situations, by declaration or labelling their works with a CC0 ‘No Rights Reserved’ affirmation.

Conclusion

Depending on the size of your blog, good procedure for using third party content may involve any one or more of the above options. When CC or Public Domain content is available, great. When it’s not, always get permission and/or the appropriate licence, whether this is from a stock media provider or the individual owner of the content. If you choose to use content without a licence, keep in mind you may get a knock on the door from an angry copyright owner, especially if you’re making money from your blog. Given the amount of free or affordable content out there, it’s probably best not to take the risk.

Written by Studio Legal (C) 2015.  

DISCLAIMER

The information in this article is of a general nature. It does not constitute formal legal advice, and should not be relied on as such. Please see the full disclaimer in our website terms. Please contact Studio Legal if you are seeking advice about a specific legal matter

For further information on copyright, licensing and online publishing legal matters, please contact hello@studiolegal.com.au or phone the office 03 9521 2128.