Happy Blogging #4: Legal Issues For Bloggers – What You Need to Know

April 1, 2016 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | Features, Happy Blogging

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Happy Blogging is where I offer my blogging knowledge and tutorials for bloggers!

Anyone can start a blog, but does that mean we’re all across the legal and ethical issues of blogging? There are some things that can be dodgy, but others are downright unethical and don’t do well in building a trustworthy relationship with your readers. As the law is different in every country, I’ve only discussed some issues after doing some research of Australian pages, so it may be different for bloggers in other countries. I also want to disclose that I’m not a lawyer of any sort and I’m resharing information based on my own research.

Here’s some of these issues below:

Owning your own copyright

When you create content for your blog, whether that’s written or visual, that means you own the copyright. If other’s steal your work through plagiarism or reposting your images on instagram/tumblr, that’s considered to be copyright infringement, and the owner has the right to request you to take it down.

Using other people’s content

Copyright issues also apply when you use other people’s work on your blog and social media channels, such as Instagram. If you’ve found an image/gif/review that you’d like to repost on your blog or account, you need to seek the copyright owner’s permission or make sure there is sufficient acknowledgement for the post. Don’t assume everything that you find on Instagram is free for you to use and repost, especially if you have a monetary motive behind it (eg. an author reposting blogger content without permission). You can get around this by resharing the post from the original source if it’s from social media, or using the repost app after asking the copyright owner for permission.

Defamation

You know those negative snarky reviews that people love to read and write? If you make it personal and it affects the reputation of an author, it can be considered as defamation. What’s even scarier about defamation, is that it means you might be liable anywhere in the world. How do you get around this? Never make your review about the author.

Using someone else’s image

If you use a photo or picture of someone and put it on your blog, they might not be too happy to find out that you’ve posted it without their permission. If you’ve taken a photo at an event and there’s someone else’s face in it, you might want to crop it out if you haven’t obtained their permission. To avoid this from occurring, make sure you’ve asked for permission to post it on your account or blog.

Fake Reviews

Review platforms, including blogs, should not contain fake reviews especially if they’re disclosed to be honest and fair reviews. The very nature of a review platform is that you provide considered, honest opinions. If you are posting reviews that are false and do not reflect your true and accurate opinion, and you’re affiliated with a company/publisher/author who gives you an incentive to post a positive review, then that could be looked at as a fake review. Fake reviews are also frowned upon by readers and other bloggers.

Disclosure

If you received a book for free and you post about it, it’s best practice to acknowledge the publisher/author in your review and your social media channels. Similarly, any affiliate links or sponsored ads/giveaways must also be disclosed as well. It’s best to be open and transparent when it comes to anything you receive for free.

Source: Arts Law: Legal Issues for Bloggers, 30 March 2016.

ACCC: What you need to know about: online reviews – a guide for business and review platforms, Commonwealth of Australia, 2013.

Websites & User-Generated Content, Australian Copyright Council, 2017.


Let’s Discuss

Blogging is a personal platform that can be constituted as a hobby, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t bound by the same ethical issues for businesses who make money out of it. With these things, it’s always better to be on the safe side.

Do any of these issues surprise you?

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Jeann is an Aussie YA blogger and mum who loves to read and recommend books! You can usually find me fangirling about books on my various social media channels including Twitter @happyindulgence, Instagram and Youtube.

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35 responses to “Happy Blogging #4: Legal Issues For Bloggers – What You Need to Know

  1. Just coming across this post and I think it's great information for ALL bloggers, not just new ones!

    I think a major one people don't understand about disclosure, is that it's not just books and it's not just reviewing. If you take pictures of bookish merchandise or take pics of the books received, that should be disclosed too. Every.Time.

    Also, the legality of giveaways. 99% of giveaways ran by bloggers are illegal
    My recent post Happy Mother’s Day! {Weekly Wrap Up 108}

  2. I do know about these, but it's awesome to share them every so often to be sure! The only one I know I am "guilty" of is GIF use. And I am actively trying to learn how to make my own. Because it's tricky. I have read that they DO fall under fair use, when you're just using them on a blog like we would be, because they generally come from TV or movies and the person who created the GIF doesn't own the rights to those things either? But it's all a slippery slope, so I have no idea. Hopefully the GIF police don't come to get me, because I will have a LOT of explaining to do 😉
    My recent post Away We Go by Emil Ostrovski Blog Tour & Giveaway

    • Gif use is so difficult Shannon! I've used them in the past and credited the owner with a link but I don't know what's appropriate here, because the person doesn't own the rights either!

  3. None of these rurprise me, and I don't use photos that aren't mine on my blog for that very reason. I don't re-blog either, but I might share links to other bloggers' blog-posts – that way, I share the love in different ways 🙂
    I think the trickiest part sometimes is for those who find out that their words or images have been used by others – it must be so sad and infuriating!
    Thanks for sharing these points in a very straight-forward way, Jeann 🙂
    My recent post Thirsty Thursday and Hungry Hearts #60 – The Year We Turned Forty

  4. Jeann, you are a gem! Too many people on the Internet have no regard for copyright and it really saddens me. It hurts content producers who do put in the effort to create their own images and such. Kudos for recapping some of the basic legal considerations as a blogger!
    My recent post Hot off the Press – Apr 4, 2016

  5. Thank you for putting this together Jeann! It's so easy to forget these rules (especially when it comes to copyright and whatnot), so it's great to be reminded every once in a while.

    • I know, especially where we're sharing and publishing so much information. Thanks lovely, I hope you are doing well!

  6. None of these issues really surprise me. I mean, I don't use any photos on my blog because I know how tedious that can be – even if you provide a link to the creator, that doesn't mean you're allowed to use it. It is kind of ridiculously dodgy how many bloggers DO use images on their blogs and Twitters with absolutely NO credit given, except for perhaps a "credit to owners", which means absolutely nothing in the legal world.

    What I would really like to be made clearer by the legal side of the internet is the use of GIFs. Because the person who made the GIF does not own it – they did not get permission from the creators. So a) is it even okay for them to make it in the first place (I read somewhere that it technically is NOT, but since it's kind of a product promotion no one cares), b) is it then okay to use that GIF elsewhere? and c) how would sourcing that GIF work, because the creator is not the owner?

    Anyway, those are just the thoughts I've had on GIFs, because there is not much about it around the place!
    My recent post A Little Change

    • I know, I see so many other blogs do it so I thought it might be a good time to recap! Credit to the owners isn't good enough unfortunately. I actually don't know about gifs, I read somewhere that if you grab gifs from certain sites that you're allowed to use them as long as you credit the owner? But I think in America they have something called "fair use" and sharing something without commercial intent is okay. But strangely it's different in Australia, I have no idea about gifs.

  7. Thanks for sharing these Jeann. Having been blogging for a few years, I'm not surprised by any of these laws, but it's always good to get a refresher. I can't believe how many people STILL plagiarise others, it's ridiculous and I think they need to be smacked across the face with a law textbook (kidding…kinda).

  8. Anna

    Gifs are tricky things. I very rarely use them, but when I do I always forget to credit the creator! This is why I get so stressed reading discussions about copy write and legal matters! I always start thinking back and thinking of everything that could come back to haunt me. I once read a blog post about a woman who was sued an absurd amount of money because of copy write issues. It gets really scary! I have been taking my own photos, but I haven't been watermarking them, just putting text over them. I also think that I'm going to stop using gifs for copy write reasons. Unless you have any tips on how to use gifs without having to worry about being sued?
    My recent post March Recap & Read Your TBR Challenge Wrap-Up

    • I read a few horror story posts as well, but I recommend doing some research on the usage of gifs so you can work out if you want to use them. I always credit where I found it and I think some websites are more lenient than others but it gets pretty confusing!

  9. These issues are why I mostly use my own photos in my posts! I still do use the occasional GIF but the copyright issues regarding those are so confusing. Copyright in general has just gone haywire with social media (we learnt about some of it in legal studies last year and it still baffles me). BUT these are fantastic tips, Jeann!!
    My recent post The Power of Retellings in a MODERN ERA

    • Yeah, I like to use my own photos too. I know, it's pretty confusing especially since we have different regions and everything, I usually just put a source for my gif in my post but I'm not sure if that's enough, so I don't use gifs much.

  10. Braine-Talk Supe

    Yo remember some issues a while back about photos and such. Not sure if it exists in Australia, but there's a loophole here called "fair use".

    Like as long as the image wasn't used for financial gain or something like that it's okay? I guess this is where fan art and fan sites come in.

      • I wouldn't call fair use a loop hole per se. It doesn't mean anyone can repurpose someone else photo/image and use it in a blog post just because it fits or looks pretty. There has do be specific commentary on that image. Say, you really love someone's style of photography and want to use it on your blog. If you feature the photography, and post a photo as a sample, stating why you specifically love that photo(grapher), it's fair use. But if you just include it said photo to enhance your own content, it's not fair use. It doesn't matter if you credit the source. You need to have explicit permission through asking or through a deliberate Creative Commons licence attached by the photographer. Without obtaining permission through either channel, it's copyright infringement.

        Just wanted to clear that up because it's so often misunderstood what people can and cannot do with images that don't belong to them. Fair use isn't a free pass.
        My recent post Hot off the Press – Apr 4, 2016

  11. Not necessarily surprised, but I think they're great pointers for anyone starting out. I really should watermark my pictures though, so there's never going to be any question about it.

    Great post, Jeann.
    My recent post March Inbox/Outbox

  12. This is a really helpful post, Jeann! I really am guilty for often being clumsy, especially with the reposting and stuff. This serves as a really good and helpful reminder that not everything in the Internet is yours for personal usage. Acknowledging original owners would be very proper. Thank you for writing this Jeann! <3
    My recent post A Trip To Singapore?!

    • Thanks Jillian! I know, sometimes we often forget about these things, especially with googling images and whatnot. Not a problem!

  13. corrallingbooks

    I've heard of all of these at some point or another…but I've always had questions about them. For example, do you think that it's fine to use a picture of a book in a review without asking for the author/publishing house's permission?
    My recent post The Get To Know Me Tag

    • I just looked it up and it looks like using the book cover for the purposes of a review comes under fair use. For example, Goodreads and Amazon posts are fine to use the cover because we're providing publicity for the authors/publishers.