It has not been long since you started your blog, but it turns out to be so valued by your readers that they gracefully start using significant parts of your content on their own blogs, corporate websites and other materials. As flattering as it is, the appreciation of your work, you probably prefer to be asked for permission by others who enjoy using your work, and certainly the law gives you that right.
Here are several useful strategies to protect your intellectual property online.
Protect Now or Cry Later
It is always better to act before your intellectual property is infringed, so that once it happens, you are better prepared to fight back and your protection is stronger than your infringer is prepared. Keep in mind that in case of a copyright dispute, you will need to be able to demonstrate that you are the author of the disputed content (or it was created for you) and the date when you created and published it.
Secure Your Contracts
If possible, sign written contracts with anyone who helps you create and maintain your blog – e.g. web designers, image and article contributors, marketing experts who help you make it popular, everyone. This way you will have written evidence about your rights to use whatever is posted on your blog. Special attention should be paid to ensure you have the rights to your own website if you pay someone else to develop it.
Show Them Your Copyright
It is not required by law, but let everyone one know that your content is protected by including the ©symbol in your website. The way to do it, is to include the symbol, and/or the word Copyright, the name of the copyright owner, the year of first publication, and the current year in case of continuous publications. E.g. © Copyright 2009-2015, Chicoverdose Ltd, All Rights Reserved. Still, even without that notice, your materials will be copyright protected by the mere fact of creating and publishing them.
You can also use digital watermarks to insert copyright information straight into the protected content – photos, documents, music files. They can be visible, or invisible, it is up to you. Copyright indication could be further used in meta tags.
Your Terms, Your Rules
The Terms not only serve as a guide for the reader to be aware of what degree of copying and use you allow, but they also work as a valid agreement and help clarify rights granted in case of dispute.
Likewise, you can use standard licenses, such as the Creative Commons set of licenses that are widely used for creative works, to avoid the hassle of defining license rights yourself.
Bloggers will seldom proceed to further protection measures at this preliminary stage as they usually would not want to limit visibility and access to their posts, but for those who wonder what else can be theoretically done, here are some ideas:
- Publish your material someplace else, e.g. in someone else`s website, a journal, book, etc. Thus, you will have solid proof of your authorship and date of publication.
- Publish it in a designated library website.
- Insert encryption or conditional access control to certain files (e.g. audio or visual files).
What to Do After Your Copyrighted Content Is Infringed
After you find your materials on another person’s website without your permission, you can simply contact the website operator first, before thinking of pursuing legal action. Before that, make sure to create several screenshots of the infringing content and the website for evidence reasons.
Then draft a letter specifying which content you consider has been used without your permission (e.g. the picture of your sandbrand dog in front of your house or the first three paragraphs of blog post ABC), where (e.g. link to picture or post) and why you claim it is your content (e.g. because you have already published this picture or post on <date> and <link> before they published it). You should further state you consider such use a copyright infringement and make clear your decisiveness to take the issue to court.
In most cases a simple letter will be enough and the person will discontinue the infringing use of your work. After all, no one wants to deal with complicated lawsuits and expensive lawyers.