How do you handle Copyright on your blog?

Copyright notice by Open Source

Copyright (Courtesy: Joshua Gajownik,, using CC-BY-SA-2.0)

Since the beginning of this blog I have been concerned about Copyright, and have worked through it in stages. I’m not a copyright expert and have no legal training, but I thought I’d share – in case it helps others – some of my thought processes over the last two years or so of my blog:

  1. I worried, in the beginning, about using other content on this blog, specifically images. I am careful about clearing the use of book cover images with publishers, and I check copyright statements for any other images I use on the blog. I attribute as best I can the creator of these images, and have found that creators (or copyright owners) are usually pretty easy to identify on sites such as Wikipedia and Flickr. But, there are many images that I have not used because I could not clarify their copyright situation.
  2. I then realised that I hadn’t made the situation clear about my own images and so, many months into the blog, I added a Text Widget for Copyright on Images. In this I stated my policy regarding my use of images from other sources, and I applied a rather loose Creative Commons licence statement for my own images.
  3. And then it occurred to me that I hadn’t properly clarified copyright on the rest of my content. Under Australian Copyright, anything I publish is automatically copyrighted to me, that is, I do not need to register for copyright in order for my content to be protected under copyright. However, as a (retired) librarian/archivist, I know how frustrating copyright can be  – in terms of knowing who owns copyright and how the copyrighted material can be used – and so today I have added a formal Creative Commons license to my blog (in the permanent sidebar) by using the Creative-Commons-Configurator and then adding the resultant html code to a WordPress Text Widget.

My Creative Commons Licence

Because I believe in collaboration, in sharing thoughts and ideas, my goal in choosing a licence was to make it easy for people to use my work without going through major hoops but to retain some rights for myself. The  licence I’ve chosen allows others to use my work (text and images in the case of this blog) under the following conditions:

  • Attribution. My work can be copied, distributed, displayed, adapted as long as it is attributed to Whispering Gums, with a link, where possible, to this blog.
  • NonCommercial. My work can be copied, distributed, displayed, adapted for non-commercial purposes only. Those who wish to use my work for commercial purposes must contact me for permission (wg1775[at]gmail[dot]com)
  • ShareAlike. Others may use my work in theirs, as long as they only distribute them under the same Creative Commons license that I’ve used for my work.

Note: None of these conditions overwrite rights protected under relevant copyright laws, such as fair use rights and moral rights. It is simply a licence by which I make clear how I, as a copyright owner, allow my work to be used.


I thank the Creative Commons people for the work they’ve done over the last 10 years in trying to both simplify and free up copyright for those of us who just want to create and share. May their work continue … as the world of creation, repurposing and distribution becomes more diverse and complex.

21 thoughts on “How do you handle Copyright on your blog?

  1. Food for thought, Sue.
    I know I felt very peeved indeed when I discovered that someone on GoodReads had copied one of my reviews, word-for-word and no attribution. I sent a polite remonstration, but have never had an apology. Clearly a non-commercial use, but I didn’t like it.
    On the other hand I felt chuffed when a publisher (with attribution) quoted a snippet from one of my reviews on their web page promoting the book. Clearly commercial use, but I felt pleased.
    Since I haven’t yet worked out my own position about how to share and who with I’ve got the copyright statement recommended by the Australian Society of Authors on the RHS menu of my blog (so that it can be seen no matter what page is being read). And where guests have contributed to my blog I’ve used the copyright symbol to identify that the copyright is theirs not mine.
    Next month I’m going to an ASA seminar about ePublishing and hope to learn more…

    • Thanks Lisa. I have no problem with people using mine non-commercially without permission (AS LONG AS it’s attributed) but want to be asked re commercial use. I may not want to be paid – particularly for a snippet like your example – but I think I have a right to know if my work is being used to make money for others. I like Creative Commons (from the moderate understanding I have).

      I saw one of mine on a strange newspaper site once — in India. Couldn’t quite work out what it was all about, but decided to leave it.

      I’d love to hear what your Seminar has to say on this topic if they cover it as presumably they will.

      Good point re guest posts.

  2. What a coincidence. I added a Creative Commons Copyright on my blog yesterday. Though I have to admit I was a bit confused on all the terms so I chose a NoDeriv. I’m not sure I considered the ShareAlike option. thanks for explaining it. I think I’ll go back and amend it. I’ve never really given any thought to asking permission to use book covers. Who knew? It easy to see who owns what on Flickr so I tend to use images from the site. A very useful post. Thanks.

    • Great minds think alike Kinna. I was wondering about No Derivatives – might add that. The most common ones people use are the three I’ve used so I though I’d start with that.

      Re book covers, I think most publishers appreciate the promotion but technically using an image without their permission is an infringement and most don’t make it clear on their sites how their cover images can be used. I’ve written to Penguin twice and have never had a reply so I never use their covers on my blog. I try to find an author image or something else for those books. Pretty well every other publisher I’ve emailed has given permission, though a couple have checked first with their legal sections.

  3. Copyright is so tricky, isn’t it? I avoid doing lots of things with images because of it. When I do use an image I try to make sure it is in the public domain or one of my own though I admit to fudging on this on occasion. For the most part I avoid using bookcovers because I don’t want to bother with persmissions. I am very good about text because I know the law better in that regard and because I have had the habit of attribution, etc drilled into me since high school. I knowingly walkf a fine line though when I am reviewing a book of poetry and post an entire short poem. As for my own personal copyright, I have been thinking about doing a creative commons license for years but have never gotten around to it. I do believe you have just inspired me 🙂

    • Yes poetry is an issue. For short poems I still only use an excerpt (but the excerpt is a higher percentage of the work than is allowed under copyright – and then I think, if it’s from a collection is the “work” the whole collection or the poem. Caution is the way to go but I think if we show good faith and respond appropriately if someone claiming copyright does approach us, we’ll be alright. And good, glad I’ve inspired you re your own copyright!

  4. A friend of mine who works on copyright told me when I started my blog that book covers can be used without permission if they’re used for review purposes – which most bloggers’ use of them is.

    • Thanks Colleen, you’re in the US aren’t you? There are subtle differences in our copyright laws. We have “fair dealing” which does allow us to use small excerpts for review purposes. We don’t have “fair use”. I am cautious because covers are a slightly different ballgame to the text – and because they are not specifically clarified in our law. I really don’t imagine a publisher would take any reviewer to court because it’s publicity but why doesn’t Penguin ever answer my emails?

  5. This is an interesting and quite complicated topic. It’s also one that people don’t generally think about. You have inspired me to apply a Creative Commons licence to my own blog.

    • Oh good Graham, and thanks for responding … the more people do it the more become aware of the issue … it is a complicated topic particularly in our global digital world. Creative Commons helps particularly as it is a global system, but it’s not without its complications either.

  6. I’ve wondered about this too, and make copious use of images on my family history blog. They’re usually images from old family photo albums, and copyright probably now rests with my siblings and I. I’ve asked if anyone reusing them can credit the family. I try to only link to and not copy other peoples images. I’ve copied many whole letters, poems etc. from our family archive, mainly to share with other family members, but I notice a fair bit of traffic to my website because of incidental material, place names etc. Like you, I guess I’ll change what I do as I go.

    • Yes, Bushmaid, I think it’s something you try to stay aware of and work out how to handle as you go. If most of your material is family created you are on easier ground (as long as there are no family conflicts of course!)

  7. All these responses have already befuddled my mind. This is probably why I will never make a good lawyer! I’ve never actually thought about copyright regarding my blog. I have seen my reviews on several random sites and I’ve asked them to take it down although the site seems dodgy to begin with. And to be honest, I’ve never given using the book cover images a second thought. Eeep!
    I think I will complete a CC too.

    • Good for you Mae … it is a good thing to think about – for yourself and for others. Creative Commons is a great way to go because it has so many options, and whatever you choose makes it clear for all. (BTW, I couldn’t be a lawyer either.)

    • Thanks Tinkerbelle. Everyone should really … even if you are happy for anyone to use your material it’s good to let them know. And it raises people’s consciousness about the issue. Go do it, it’s easy!

  8. Pingback: Now Blogging in CC | melonpopzdropz …

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