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Copyright and Fair Use

  • Don't Forget to Cite Your Sources
  • Despite how it might seem from the outside looking in, there are unwritten rules of the blogosphere related to blogging ethics and etiquette. At the same time, there are legal requirements that bloggers must adhere to. Citing your sources is one of the most important rules of the blogosphere that has a legal component related to it as well.


Copyrights protect the original author, photographer, videographer, etc. from having their original work stolen or misused. In essence, if you did not create a piece of content on your blog, someone else holds the copyright to it. Therefore, you must cite your source for that piece of information (to avoid being accused of plagiarism) and seek written permission from the original owner of the content you want to republish on your blog.

Fair Use

  • The gray area of copyright law comes in the form of fair use.
  • If you're reusing someone else's material on your blog for the purpose of providing criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching or research, then you may not have to seek permission. Unfortunately, fair use is debatable, so if you're republishing someone else's work on your blog, do the safe (and right) thing and ask for permission first then cite the source in your blog post. 

The Importance of Linking

  • One of the most important parts of the blogosphere is its existence as part of the social web wherein creating communities and engaging conversations is a top priority. With that in mind, most blog authors will mention another blogger's content with an appropriate citation of the source and a link back to that source blog post (typically with a trackback). Providing attribution and a link back to the source is often enough to satisfy another blogger as long as you don't copy their content at length verbatim.

The Role of Blog Etiquette

  • If you cite and link to another blogger's work in one of your blog posts, be certain you add to the information provided by your source rather than simply copying it.

Understanding Creative Commons Licenses

What is Creative Commons?:


  • Many images and photos found on the internet can be reused on your blog if they carry a creative commons license. In short, creative commons licenses protect the owner of the original licensed work without applying a full copyright, meaning others can use it (with possible restrictions).
  • You'll need to read the restrictions related to each photo with a creative commons license to understand how you can use it and what attributions or other requirements you need to meet to legally use it. There are six types of creative commons licenses described below.

Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives :

  • This is the most restrictive creative commons license. This type of license allows you to use the image or photo but you may not alter it in any way and you must mention the owner and link back to him or her.

Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike

  • This license allows you to alter or build upon the originally licensed photo or image for non-commercial purposes, but you must credit the original licensor and license your new work under the identical terms of the originally licensed photo or image.

Attribution Non-commercial:

  •  With this license, you may edit or build upon the original photo or image non-commercially. You must acknowledge the original licensor, but you do not have to obtain an identical creative commons license for your work.

Attribution No Derivatives:

  •  You may use a photo or image with the attribution no derivatives license commercially or non-commercially, but you may not edit it in any way and you must credit the source.

Attribution Share Alike:

  •  You may alter or build upon a photo or image with the attribution share alike license for commercial purposes but you must give credit to the original licensor and license your new work under the identical terms of the originally licensed photo or image.


  •  This is the most open and flexible creative commons license. If a photo or image has the attribution creative commons license, you may edit it and use it commercially as long as you credit the original licensor.

More Information:

  • You can learn more about creative commons licenses or obtain your own creative commons license for your blog's content on the Creative Commons website