Blogger: Rachel Kent
It’s easy to forget the basics of seeking permission when it comes to using the internet. Photographs of everything are a mouse-click away, and I’ll admit that I’m guilty of clicking “accept these terms and conditions” without reading them all. But some rules need to be followed to stay legal online; here are five ways it’s easy to break the rules accidentally.
1) IMAGES: If you frequently use images on Pinterest or your blog, be sure that you have the right to use the pictures before you put them up. Doing a Google search for an image and finding one without a copyright or watermark on it doesn’t mean it’s yours for the taking. The best way to find royalty free images is to sign up for a stock photo account–and you can always take pictures yourself.
2) NEWSLETTERS: When you add contacts to your e-newsletter list, you must have that person’s permission to add the address and you also need to include an unsubscribe button in every note you send. Newsletter programs like MailChimp.com or ConstantContact.com prompt you to follow the CAN-SPAM act, which details these rules. It’s best to use programs like these when possible.
3) FACEBOOK PROMOTIONS: When you host a contest, party, giveaway or promotion on Facebook, you must do so on an app that’s not part of the Facebook platform. Facebook isn’t constantly policing pages for promotions like this (that I know of), but if you are caught breaking this rule, your page will be shut down, and you might be banned from Facebook use.
4) BLOG QUOTES: When you find a blog with an interesting quote or content that you want to highlight on your own blog, give credit and link back to the original blogger’s post. Depending on the size of the quote, you might need to ask for permission to use it. I’d say that for anything longer than a sentence or two you should ask for permission or summarize the idea in your own words and link to the page so your reader can check out the post if he or she is interested in reading more. There’s no hard and fast rule here (that I know of), so it’s better to be cautious when quoting another blogger’s work. Quoting poetry and songs is also a place to be careful. You need to be sure the content is in the public domain to use more than two lines without permission.
Be safe rather than sorry in all of these areas.
How do you make sure you are following internet rules?
Do you have other recommendations of ways we can keep internet use legal?
These are all great tips! Thanks for the reminders!
Rachel, these are great points to make. I did not realize the prohibition of contests and such things on the Facebook platform.
Thanks SO MUCH for this blog post. As a former journalist who was taught early on the importance of intellectual property, I’m stunned at how fast and loose people play with material belonging to others. Those are lawsuits waiting to happen.
One other item you might want to note is that there are applications that let a person copyright his or her images. I use Visual Watermark to “claim” every interesting photo I post. This might seem overprotective, but one of my early forays into blogging triggered a comment from a person thanking me for a particular photograph. He admitted that he planned to use it as his own until I gently noted that photograph was my property and he was welcome to use it ONLY if he credited it to me.
Thanks again for bringing attention to the importance of intellectual property.
Kristen Joy Wilks
Um…so I’m wondering if I just broke a rule! Everyone I know has launch parties where you can go on facebook. So I clicked “create an event” and made a launch party and invited people and last night we all talked about the book and wolves and Siberia and I gave some stuff away…was that against the rules? I’m totally freaking out here. I thought I’d done it right.
I’m not a lawyer, so this is not official advice, but I think you’re safe. Facebook Events were created to help promote online and in-person gatherings such as launch parties. I’m not so sure about the giveaway part, but you can check Facebook’s promo guidelines here https://www.facebook.com/page_guidelines.php (I talk about this in another comment on this post, a few comments down).
Kristen Joy Wilks
Thank you so much! I was really wanting to know.
Janet Ann Collins
Would it be legal to quote two lines of a poem or song one day, then add another two the next day, and so on? If it were on a blog or Facebook page would that be different than, for example, a newspaper column with two lines in each issue? What are the limits?
That’s a tricky one, Janet, and a bit of a gray area. For instance, if I were to approach you and ask, “Can I reprint your entire book on my blog, one paragraph at a time, daily for year,” I suspect you (and your publisher) would give me a big, fat, “NO!”
Poems and songs are particularly tricky, as they tend to be short. To be on the safe side, I suggest obtaining written permission from the publisher/author of the work.
Janet Ann Collins
Thanks, Laura. I certainly wasn’t planning to do that, but it occurred to me that some marketers might try it.
Thanks for reminders, Rachel. I take the additional step with images and only use mine or my wife’s. I know someone who used “royalty free” image on her blog. It seems the person who added it to the “royalty free” site did not own it, and the owners came after her. It cost her $400 to avoid being sued.
I’m always stunned when people think nothing of taking other people’s work and using it without permission. The mindset seems to be, “If it’s on the internet, it’s free.” Or worse, “They’ll never know.”
These tips are a great place to start. Copyright is a complex enough subject that there are lawyers who specialize in it. It’s safest to always assume you need permission–in writing–to use anything you didn’t create entirely yourself. You really, truly don’t want to get on the wrong side of a copyright dispute.
Rachel, Thank you for pointing out these typical “rules” many people break.
One clarification on #3 Facebook contests: You CAN run promotions on your Facebook page (NOT on your personal Facebook profile/timeline) without using an outside app. You need to make sure you follow Facebook’s guidelines for promotions, which you can find here https://www.facebook.com/page_guidelines.php under “Promotions.”
Make sure you post Official Rules on your Facebook page and include the disclaimers that Facebook states in their guidelines:
Promotions on Facebook must include the following:
a. A complete release of Facebook by each entrant or participant.
b. Acknowledgement that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.
I frequently run promos on Facebook pages on behalf of my author clients, so if anyone needs help or you want to look at my Official Rules, feel free to email me privately.
Do you know anything about required permissions for linking or embedding YouTube videos into a blog post? I’ve googled and found conflicting information.
I’m talking about official artist videos. Is giving the artist credit by linking/embedding their video enough, or are we required to seek permission to use it? I’m just starting out and want to get this right.