This is the third of a three-part series on the basics of copyright in blogging. Disclaimer: I am not an attorney, and this post should not in any way be construed as legal advice. I have done my best to educate myself in an informal way on the issue of copyright, and share what I have learned with that understanding.

Two weeks ago, I talked about copyright as it applies to using images on our blogs. Last Monday, I focused on what is fair and legal use of others’ content. If you haven’t read those posts, please do so. I believe these issues are important to all of us as bloggers, whatever the purpose of our blogs might be.

This week I’m looking at copyright as it applies to one’s own content. Yes, there are some issues here, as well.

I can hear people saying, “It’s MY content, I don’t need permission to use it!” That’s true. But there are other considerations.

Copyright protection: While it’s a fact that as soon as you write something, it is protected by copyright, and you own the copyright, you can’t control access to it when you’re posting it on the internet.

It is important, therefore, to ensure that you state that your content is protected by copyright, at least by a statement somewhere on the main page of the blog itself, if not on every post. Here’s a link showing how to do that, from “Daily Blog Tips”.

If you hold a Creative Commons license, there are specific rules about stating the rights to copy, and marking your work so that readers understand the boundaries. Here is what the Creative Commons website says.

You may see a contradiction between those words and the fact that I have “share” possibilities at the bottom of each of my posts. The difference is that by using one of those “share” buttons, you are simply directing others to my blog to read a specific post, you’re not lifting content. (See last week – it’s important to ask permission before blogging other’s content, and to post only short quotes, with attribution and links back to the original post.)

A concern I have about posting unpublished work online, on a blog, or in some other forum is a concern that is shared by some, but not all, writers and experts. How much is too much, and does one run the risk of one’s ideas or content being taken by others?

Remember that we don’t know who all is reading our blogs – a public blog is just that, public. I used to post more about my works in progress, but have since become much more circumspect. Hayley Lavik in her blog raises some good points about the possibility of  losing “first rights,” among other things, if one posts large writing samples on one’s blog.

My own feeling is that it’s better to err on the side of caution, particularly when posting unpublished excerpts from something you will eventually want to submit for publication. I perhaps take this to an extreme, being reluctant to answer “what’s it about” questions about my works in progress, or to post pitches online.

Each person has their own level of comfort in this area. Some people, like Jane Friedman, urge people to relax about this question, others urge caution. (Unfortunately, the link to Chuck Sambuchino’s opposing view, which both Hayley and Jane give in their discussions on this topic, is no longer a working link.)  EDITED TO ADD: Here is an updated link to Chuck Sambuchino’s views. Thank you so much, Hayley Lavik, for providing the link!

What are your thoughts? How much do you post? I’d be interested to hear other’s opinions on this.


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