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WordPress School: Copyright Policy

Badge - Learn WordPress with Lorelle VanFossen at WordPress School.We’ve started our mini-series on adding policies to your WordPress site with some basic information and details on how to organize and structure policies on your site. It’s time to evaluate the five different policies featured on almost all websites regardless of topic or goals in Lorelle’s WordPress School free online course. Remember, we add policies to our site for quality control and information, letting our visitors know what our terms and conditions are, and where the liability and responsibility starts and stops.

The four policies I’ll be covering are Copyright, Disclosure, Privacy, and Comments. Today, we’re tackling copyright.

By international law, if you create something and it is in a fixed state, such as a printed book, recorded album, or web page, you own the copyright and may dictate how it is to be used. You do not need to display a copyright notice or have a copyright policy, not even a © to indicate the material is copyrighted. If it is original and you published it, it is your intellectual property and you have the right to determine how it may be used, or not. You own it.

You don’t need to register it. You don’t need to do anything, however, copyright policies and notices serve to remind others that this is your work and you have the right to control how it is used, and these are the parameters for usage. A well-written copyright policy states exactly how your content is to be used to allow for Fair Use, the ability to quote, cite, and link to your content without explicit permission.

Before we dive deeper into how copyright works and what to consider when writing your copyright policy, let’s take a moment to talk about where to put your copyright notice in WordPress, if you choose to use one.

Where to Put a Copyright Notice in WordPress

A copyright notice is the © 2016 Your Name statement. You could use the symbol or the word written out as Copyright 2016 Your Name. I highly recommend that you include a link around the notice to your copyright policy created on a WordPress Page on your site, created per the instructions on how to integrate policies into your WordPress site.

If you would like to ensure your copyright notice and the link to your copyright policy is on every web page of your site, put it in a Text Widget in the sidebar or footer.

If you would like to add your copyright notice to every web page within the content area, allowing the notice to go out with your site’s feed, save the HTML link to a text file on your computer and paste it into the bottom of each post before you publish it, or, if your site is self-hosted, used a WordPress Plugin that does this automatically.

If you have a strict copyright policy, or wish to add emphasis to your copyright policy, use a Text Widget placed in the sidebar or footer with a sentence or two that clearly specifies permitted use, with a link to your copyright policy Page for more specifics.

Your Copyright Policy

I’ve written extensively about content theft, known as a copyright violation, and I highly recommend Jonathan Bailey of Plagiarism Today as your first step in learning about copyrights, how to protect yourself, and how to defend your rights.

As a web publisher, it is important to understand copyright laws and Copyright Fair Use, and how and when to use it and not abuse it or be abused by it. While many of us just write, add our photographs and graphics, and hit publish, when you hit that publish button, it comes with responsibilities. It says to the world that I created this. It’s my work. It’s original work, and I did this. It’s mine to share, not yours to take.

If you find someone has taken your work and used or abused it, you have the right to protect and defend that work.

If you choose to use content from others such as words or images, ensure you follow their copyright policy for usage, and get permission if in doubt. Learn how to quote and cite sources in your posts and on your site to avoid copyright infringement. You will probably win friends by respecting their work by sharing and promoting it properly.

For bloggers publishing family history images and dependent upon other people’s content on their site, things get even more complicated. Tapping into content in the public domain frees you from copyright infringement issues, but photographs and graphics, things get more complicated. There is much to learn, and it is your responsibility to learn how this all works, but today, we’re focusing on writing your copyright policy.

On the web, your content is covered by international copyright laws, and in the United States, it is further enhanced, so to speak, by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Read them. Know what they say. Know what your rights are to create and protect your work.

Copyright Licenses

A term you need to know when it comes to copyright is licensing. When you give permission for your content to be used, you are licensing the work for use. You aren’t giving it away, you are permitting a very specific usage, and that usage may be very specific. It may specify how, where, when, and for how long your content may be used.

Creative Commons was one of the first to attempt to standardize web copyrights and usage and make the process of choosing a copyright license easier. They came up with six licenses:

  • Attribution (CC BY): Let’s others distribute and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as you are credited as the original author.
  • Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC): Allows for attribution for non-commercial use as long as they credit you for the original work.
  • Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA): Allows for attribution, even for commercial work, as long as they credit you and their new creations as including your original work. Also known as copyleft.
  • Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike CC BY-NC-SA: Allows for attribution for non-commercial use as long as they credit you and their new creations.
  • Attribution-NoDerivs (CC BY-ND): Allows attribution but the content is to be unchanged and whole with credit to the original author.
  • Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND): The most restrictive, allows for use with attribution, but restricts their ability to change the original content.

While these are helpful, and part of your assignment, you still must be more specific with how you wish your content to be used. You may wish to give it all away, not caring what happens to it, or you might wish to be more specific, allowing part of it to be used, but which part?

What Goes Into Your Copyright Policy?

In general, your copyright policy should answer the following questions:

  • How much of my work will I allow to be used before requiring permission?
  • Does the limit apply to words, images, video, graphics, site design, or some or all of these?
  • Do you require a link? What should the link anchor text say? Your name? The name of your site? The web page from where the original was found?
  • What are the consequences if someone is found to be violating your copyright?
  • If my copyright infringement or defense gets into the court system, which jurisdiction is covered by their domestic and international laws such as those by the United States or UK laws? Should you list that?
  • How do you wish to be contacted for permission to use your content?
  • Will you give the content away for free or charge for its usage? Do you have usage fee set? Should you include them?
  • If you offer regular reprints of your content, should you include a separate policy or include a reprint policy in the copyright policy?

Your assignment, coming up after the following brief warning, is to create your copyright policy on the single page or create a new Page on your site per the organization and structure policy decisions you made previously.

I’d like to talk about the dark side of the force when it comes to online abuse and copyright. Be aware that copyright is a two-way street, and many are in the cross hairs. If someone uses your work without permission and in violation of your published copyright policy (you can’t just make up the rules after someone’s taken your work), go after them following the instructions offered in my tutorial on content theft and the information and forms from Jonathan Bailey of Plagiarism Today. However, don’t accuse someone of copyright violation, or respond back with force if you are wrongfully charged, just because you can. There is a growing number of abuses that use copyright as a threat. WordPress.com won $25,000 in a court battle not long ago over an illegal takedown notice. Just because you don’t like what someone says about you or your company, that isn’t a copyright violation, well explained by the blogger and journalist accused, and the courts agreed.

There is a growing nastiness on the web to use copyright infringement, trademarks, and other artistic protections to bully people into paying money when they’ve done no wrong. A quick search on the web will turn up many of these. Be forewarned and forearmed, and defend yourself for the benefit of all.

Copyright Examples and Information

The following are links for examples of copyright policies (don’t copy, use your own), and pertinent articles and references to help you make your copyright policy.

The following are examples of the copyright policies by some social media and media publishing platforms. Their copyright protects their work, and sometimes your own, and provides a statement on how to report copyright infringements on their services. If you use one of these faithfully, check their policies and know how to report infringement and greivances.

Assignment

Lorelle's WordPress School Assignment Badge.Your assignment on Copyright Policies is to write a such a policy.

  1. Create a Page titled “Copyright,” or create a heading on the single Page of Policies you’ve created.
  2. Go to Creative Commons and select a license.
    • Copy the embed code
    • Paste it in your copyright policy content area.
  3. Expand upon your copyright policy per the questions above in the article.
    • Be clear about what you determine to be Fair Use, use of your content without explicit permission.
    • Be clear about the specifics of how you will allow use of your content.
  4. Above or below your copyright policy, incorporate a sentence with a link to your contact page for people to contact you if they would like to ask permission to use or reprint your content.

Ensure you’ve created a jump link or link to the Copyright Policy in your site’s content structure and organization.

Four more policies to go. They will work much the same way, always including a link to your Contact Page and form to ensure people can contact you if they need more information or permission.

Join us in our discussions on this assignment in our WordPress School Google+ Community to talk about copyright policies and policies in general.

This is a tutorial from Lorelle’s WordPress School. For more information, and to join this free, year-long, online WordPress School, see:

Subscribe to Lorelle on WordPress. Feed on Lorelle on WordPress Follow on Twitter. Give and Donate to Lorelle VanFossen of Lorelle on WordPress.


3 Comments

  1. Posted May 10, 2016 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    I have a site with multiple writers, who owns the content that is not written by me? When I sign new people on as writers, I ask them to agree (via an email) that all content belongs to me, but by default is that true since I own the site?

    • Posted May 10, 2016 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

      The authors own their content unless you have them release their rights. They have to sign away their rights. It is poor business as they should license the work for your use but not give it away unless they are well compensated. Make sure your site policies reflect multiple contributors. Thanks. Great question.

  2. marcus535
    Posted July 27, 2016 at 12:27 am | Permalink

    Thank you for this article it really cleared things up for me. Back to writing my own policy now!


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