When we think “the media,” a blog might not be the first thing that comes to mind, but think about it. A blog is content that is updated daily (if not more frequently), and a single blog post can be shared thousands of times. So when it comes to blog content, what’s protectable, and how do you protect it? This two-part series will look at just that. Below, you’ll learn about the protectable elements in a blog and some of the Copyright Office policies at play (hint: they work in favor of blog owners!).
Protectable Elements in a Blog
A blog’s text alone qualifies as a “literary work” under the U.S. Copyright Act (unless you’re working with ingredients and recipes, which we’ll talk about in the next installment). But a blog is so much more than its text! Photographs, infographics, colors, and other graphic design elements draw the attention of readers in the 21st century. Of course, without images, how would these beautiful blog posts be shareable and save-able on platforms like Pinterest? The fact that a blog lives on the internet and contains so many creative elements makes protecting a blog an interesting feat.
Registering A Blog With the Copyright Office
No conversation about protecting a blog would be complete without mentioning copyright registration. Part of the Copyright Office’s online registration process asks whether the work is “published” or “unpublished.” This is important because in certain circumstances, unpublished works can be registered in “batches.” What does this mean? It means that you could theoretically register months of blog content in one application and pay a one-time fee of $55, rather than register post-by-post and pay a fee with each application.
So, is a blog “published” for copyright purposes? In this Circular, the Copyright Office defines “publication” as follows:
“Publication” is the distribution of copies … of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending. … A public performance or display of a work does not of itself constitute publication.
That last sentence is the clincher. Basically, public display of a work alone does not equal publication (for copyright purposes). And what’s more of a public display than a blog? Because of this somewhat antiquated definition of “publication,” owners of blogs and online magazines (so long as those articles are not downloadable) can create copyright registration protocols that cover a month or even a year’s worth of blog content in a single application.
Proactively Protecting a Blog: Registration Protocols
After considering the benefits of copyright registration, a blog owner might consider creating registration protocols. This involves deciding on an interval (whether monthly, quarterly, or yearly) and registering all blog content within that interval. For example, on April 1 I could register all content posted from January 1-March 31, then on August 1 I could register all content posted from April 1-June1, and so on. Of course, a blog owner should exclude content that he or she does not own from registrations (such as stock photos, or creative content provided by contractors that haven’t signed a Work for Hire + IP Assignment or similar agreement).
Tune in for the next installment of this series: Protecting DIY Projects and Recipes.