Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tools for applying copyright protection to your blog

This article is about the steps you can take to apply copyright protection to your blog.


Based on a work By Binnette (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Previously, I've described how copyright applies to blogs in very general terms.

This is a more detailed look at the things to consider if you want to protect your "stuff" (ie words, pictures, tunes, blog-design, code, etc) from being used by other people without permission.  It covers:
  • Deciding what restrictions you want to apply
  • Telling readers what the policies are
  • Physically stopping people from making copies of your work
  • Making it obvious when your work is copied

Decide on your copyright policy

The first step in applying copyright to your blog is deciding whether people are allowed to make copies of your work, and under what conditions.

Many people initially say "it's mine, no one else can make any copies".

But some people want to share their materials and aren't looking for anything in return - hence the open copyright and Creative Commons approaches.  

Other people are willing to share provided they get some of the credit for doing the work and/or some money.  Both the Wall Street Journal (Curse of the Greedy Copyright Holders and Their Fee-Seeking Lawyers) and YouTube's Head of User Experience (Margaret Gould Stewart: How YouTube thinks about copyright - as presented at TED) have some pretty good arguments about how sharing can make more revenue in the long run.  And thinking about what you might, realistically, do when someone breaks the law and makes a copy of your material may make a policy that allows copies-provided-credit-is-given more appealing.

Ultimately the decision about what policies to apply is yours - but you need to decide what policies you're going to follow before you can do anything about them.

Telling people what they can (or cannot) do

Once you've decided what copyright rules apply to your blog, it's good to tell your blog-readers what permissions you are willing to give for use of your material:
  • If you don't want to give any general permissions, you might put text with the phrase "© YOUR-BLOG-NAME" in a prominent position.
    If you have a designer template, then the Attributes gadget already has a field where you can put copyright, provided you haven't removed it.    Or you may just want to add a text-gadget the same way you would add any other type of gadget - if you put it above or below your Blog Post gadget, then it will show up with every single post including ones that you've already published.
  • If you are willing to give permission, but only on a case-by-case basis - say so.  And tell people how they can get in touch to discuss using your work.
  • If you are happy to give some general permissions (eg people can copy your material so long as they attribute it to you), you might investigate the Creative Commons options, and put a statement from them on your site.  Their site has a automated tool for adding a gadget, or you may like to add the HTML to your blog yourself.
  • To protect photographs or artworks, you could put a copyright statement right inside the image, either very obviously or as a faded-yet-visible watermark.  That way, anyone who sees a copy that someone has made will know that they photos are really yours.

Stopping people from copying your work

Physically stopping people from being about to make copies of  work is another approach.
    There are scripts that you can add to your blog that disable the right-click option for anyone who is viewing the page: this makes it harder to copy-and-paste text or to save pictures.  However I don't recommend this approach: it's easy for tech-savvy people to disable the scripts or to work around them (eg to look at your page source code and copy the picture location from it), and because it stops your viewers from doing other things (eg opening links in a new window) that they should be able to do.

    Another option is to stop people from copying text from your blog. As with disabling right-click, I don't much like this approach, and don't use it: as with disabling right-clicks, it doesn't apply to RSS-feed or email subscribers, and a determined copycat can either disable Javascript, or take a screen shot and OCR it, or even just re-type the content.  But it might be suitable for some blogs.   To do it, add this CSS rule to your template:
    .post-body {
    -webkit-touch-callout: none;
    -khtml-user-select: none;
    -moz-user-select: -moz-none;
    -ms-user-select: none;
    user-select: none;

    One way to protect photographs is to save them as a fairly low resolution before you upload them:  this means they look ok web-pages (yours and anyone else's), but have very low quality if people try to print them or use them in places like a newspaper.   If you don't want to reduce the resolution, you can remove the ability to click on them, so that they don't open in a new window:  this won't stop people who can read the source HTML behind your page, but it will deter your average photo-copier.

    If you want to protect music you have composed or videos you've made, you might investigate registering your content with YouTube's Audio ID and Video ID system.   This won't stop other people from making copies of your work in other places, but it will stop them from uploading copies (or derived works, eg their own video with some of your music) back to YouTube - or at least give you some options for saying what should happen if someone tries to do so.

    Make copies obvious

    Rather than trying to stop people from making copies, an other approach is to simply make the original source obvious to anyone who looks at the copy.


    Adding a some partially-transparent text to photos or videos deters people who might copy your work (because it will be obvious that they've copied it), and makes the original source clear to anyone who sees a copy.  Most photo-manipulation tools now have tools for adding text to photos.  Make sure you keep a safe high-quality, un-watermarked copy of any  photos that you care about, as well as showing the altered one on your blog.


    Long-term Blogger-HAT readers will have noticed that I'm putting more and more links to related articles into each post. I started doing this to be helpful (eg did you know you can add a Facebook "like" or "send button" button to individual posts as well as to your whole blog?)), and to stop repeating myself. But it's also a good tools for discouraging determined copy-cats:  they don't really want to link to me, so if they use my material they'll have to edit lots of links). And the casual or automated ones (who don't bother editing the links) just end up sending traffic to me.

    Use features that are built into other file types:

    If you use your blog to distribute other items (eg templates, eBooks, diagrams), you might like to consider more subtle ways of either is telling people about the copyright provisions, or just giving yourself the credit for work you've done.

    Example:  one of my sites gives away planning templates that are made with MS Word and PowerPoint.  I'm happy for them to be copied and changed, provided the copyright attribution is left intact.  Microsoft's File / Properties feature has a link to my website in each template, and often in Windows Explorer these values are shown when someone hovers their mouse of the files.  Over time I expect it to be a good tool for building the recognition of my blog.

    "Signing" your RSS feed

    If you put  a statement, crediting your blog as the source into your RSS feed, then every single item that is posted has your blog-name attached: copycats either need to edit it out manually, or leave it in and show the world where they got their content from.

    For example the line I have added to the feed of the blog you are reading right now is:
    This article is © Copyright – All rights reserved - Blogger-Hints-and-Tips.
    You may publish translated versions of this article on non-English language blogs provided you acknowledge Blogger-Hints-and-Tips as the original source.

    Blogger has a feature for setting this up:
    1. Go to Settings > Other > Site Feed 
    2. Add the words you want to use to the Post feed footer box, 
    3. Click Save Settings.

    Registering your work with a copyright-service

    There are a number of services around that let you "register" the copyright for an item.  This might give you peace-of-mind, or evidence to use in certain legal situations.

    But it won't make any difference to whether people make unauthorised copies of your blog-contents, so I'm not going into details about it here.

    The next article in this series, Dealing with people who have copied your work, has more detail about how these services work and what they're actually useful for - and suggestions about some other, possibly more useful, steps you can take.

    Related Articles:

    Copyright, Blogs and Bloggers, an Introduction

    Taking action when someone has made an unauthorised copy of material from your blog

    How to add a gadget, using Blogger

    Putting 3rd party HTML (eg a Creative Commons licence) into your Blog

    Stopping the pictures in your blog from being "clickable"

    Finding a Picture's location (URL) in Picasa-web-albums

    Removing the Attribution Gadget from your Blog

    Types of blogger template.

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    1. if i have a blog in blogspot from the day that i create, i have a copyright?

    2. Alex, it depends whether you wrote all the content - and also on what the laws in your country say. I'm afraid there's not a clear-cut answer.

    3. I blog about needlework, copyright is often a subject in my blogging circle. An excellent article. Thank you!

    4. I have created my blog for over 1 year but until now i haven't realized to protect my copyright. You article really reminds me of this important issue !

    5. What if your content has been indexed. Would any copies be disregarded as duplicates?

      1. Not necessarily: the search engine doesn't necessarily know which site actually owns the contents, so they cannot reliably say what's the original and what's a copy.

    6. So your telling me that I can have copy rights on my poems just by putting (©) and my blog name?

      1. It depends on the laws in your country: in many places, you don't even need to include the copyright symbol, things you write belong to you just because you wrote them.

    7. i have a blog of my own poems..but i attach images/wallpapers with every post using google image search or from different wallpapers site..then how could i say my blog is copyright material??becoz images/wallpapers arent mine..only i am owner of my poems/posts....
      any suggestion ??

    8. This comment has been removed by the author.

    9. I just found by googling my blog looking for a certain post that someone is duplicating my posts, leaving off part of the name, and publishing them with the same titles and contents. I added your copyright notice to my settings but can't see that it is appearing now. I tried republishing an old post but it still did not appear. How can I make this message appear on old posts and will it be there on new posts I write?