Copyright and attribution in blog posts

 
In your learning blog posts it is very important that you correctly attribute or reference materials and images you have used.

The information below will help you understand what to do when.

Citing or referencing

Academic work

In academic work, we acknowledge other people’s ideas by citing their work using an in text reference and an entry in a reference list.

There are two main purposes for academic citation: to give credit to the person whose ideas you are using, and to establish the academic foundation on which your work is built.

In a report or an essay, you might paraphrase other people’s ideas or you might quote their words. In both cases, you use an in text reference and an entry in a reference list to give credit.

If you paraphrase, you don’t need to supply a page number. If you quote, you do.
Example
Paraphrased:

Jones (2009) argues that the cat always sat on the mat and that therefore, this was nothing new.

Quoted:

Jones suggests that ‘this isn’t a new phenomenon. That cat has always sat squarely in the middle of the mat’ (Jones, 2009, p. 44).

Blog posts

In a blog post, you ‘cite’ someone else’s ideas (paraphrased) or words (quotes) by using contextual linking.

We do this to give credit to other people’s ideas and also to lend credibility to our own work by establishing the foundation of our work.

Examples

Paraphrased:

In her 2009 post, Jones argues that the cat always sat on the mat and that therefore, this was nothing new. (Where the underlined words are a hyperlink to the original post.)

Quoted:

In her 2009 post, Jones suggests that ‘this isn’t a new phenomenon. That cat has always sat squarely in the middle of the mat’. (Where the underlined words are a hyperlink to the original post.)

Attribution

Sometimes the words citation and attribution are used in the same way, which makes thinking about this whole issue a bit tricky.

But when we are talking about copyright and attribution, we are generally talking about acknowledging the creator or copyright holder of the original.

If I write a blog post and I want to add an image related to the topic but I don’t have an image of my own to use, I might use someone else’s image. But if I use a copyright image, I am infringing copyright.

Example

I do a Google image search and find an image of the new iPhone 6 in an article on a newspaper website. I put this image into my blog post and I attribute the source.

Is this ok? Nope. And here’s why…

The image of the iPhone 6 came from a newspaper website and I’m yet to see a newspaper website that licenses any of its content under a CC license. So I have essentially taken an image – which is a complete document in its own right – and I have reproduced it in its entirety in my blog post. It doesn’t matter that I said where it came from or even that I linked back to the original source. I have still infringed copyright.

Example

I use a Flickr advanced search and I find a photo taken by Smith of his new iPhone 6 and I see that the image is licensed with a Creative Commons Attribution license. I put the image in my own blog post and I attribute the source.

Is this ok? Yes! Because I have respected the license under which the image is published.

Example

I own a phone shop and I want an image of the iPhone 6 to put on my website. I use a Flickr advanced search and I find a photo taken by Smith of his new iPhone 6 and I see that the image is licensed with a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial license. I put the image in my website and I attribute the source.

Is this ok? Nope. It’s not. Even though it’s CC licensed.

It’s not ok because the copyright holder has specified that the image is ok to reuse with attribution, but not for commercial purposes. So I can’t use it on my site because I’m a business selling phones.

Summary

Think of it in these terms: am I reproducing or redistributing the whole, or am I acknowledging how the original has influenced my work?

Reproducing or redistributing

This is about copyright.

If you are reproducing or redistributing the whole, then it’s a copyright issue and you must not do it unless the material is appropriately CC licensed (or you have the explicit permission of the copyright holder, which you might obtain by asking for permission to reproduce).

Example

Jones’ blog is not Creative Commons licensed. I take Jones’ entire 2009 blog post and post it on my blog, under my name.

This is about copyright because I have reproduced the entirety of the original post. I have infringed copyright by reposting Jones’ work on my own blog without permission.

Example

Jane’s image on Flickr is Creative Commons licensed. I take Jane’s image and put it in my blog post. I correctly attribute it.

This is about copyright because it is about reproducing or reusing something in its entirety. But I have notinfringed copyright because the image is CC licensed and I correctly attributed it.

Example

Smith’s blog is Creative Commons licensed. I take a post off Smith’s blog and I reproduce it in its entirety as a post on my blog.

This is about copyright because I have reproduced the entirety of the original post. But I have not infringed copyright because Smith licensed her content so that others can reuse it.

Acknowledging ideas or quotes

This is not about copyright.

If you are using a quote or referring to someone else’s ideas, then it is a referencing or citation issue. Forget about copyright – in this context, it isn’t relevant because you are not reproducing the original work.

So, you simply need to use the conventional method to cite the source. In an essay, the conventional method is to include a reference in a standard format. In a blog post, convention is to use a contextual hyperlink.

Example

Jones’ blog is not Creative Commons licensed. I want to quote a sentence from her post in my own blog post, so I will put it in quotation marks and link to the original.

This is not about copyright; it’s about acknowledging the source of an idea. It is completely irrelevant whether the post is Creative Commons licensed or copyright.

Finding CC licensed images and other media

Not sure where to find CC licensed content? We know this is stating the obvious but… Try a Google search for something like:

how to find creative commons licensed images

You’ll be surprised what turns up!

My favourite place to find random CC licensed photos right now is Unsplash. It’s a tumblr blog where people submit awesome photos for others to use.