Blogging in your own words and carefully using others’ images – some tips

Winston Churchill (Image via Wikipedia)I have, myself, full confidence that if you do your duty, if nothing is neglected, and if the best arrangements are made, as they are being made, you shall prove yourself once again able to defend your market share, to ride out the storm of competition, and to outlive the menace of laziness, if necessary for years, if necessary alone.

At any rate, that is what I want you to try to do with your blogging on your wonderful WordPress website.

That is my resolve on your behalf. That is the will of your customers and prospects. Your business and your passion for what you do, linked together in their cause and in their need, will defend to the death your desire to add value to our lives, aiding us within your area of expertise to the utmost of your strength.

Even though large tracts of other business owners and marketing consultants have fallen or may fall into the grip of trickery and and all the odious apparatus of SEO snake oil merchants, you shall not flag or fail.

You shall blog on to the end, you shall blog in on your products and services, you shall blog on the needs and concerns of your prospective customers, you shall blog with growing confidence and growing strength using current topics as your themes, you shall defend your cusomters’ rights, whatever the cost may be, you shall blog on the beaches, you shall blog on the landing grounds, you shall blog in the fields and in the streets, you shall blog in the hills …

Okay, I admit that was pure plagiarism for which I meant no offence but through which I wanted to drive home a point. Plagiarising Winston Churchill made it quick and easy for me to churn out words and while they might have been slightly amusing, they were not my words and I would never try to pass them off as mine.

But why is this a problem, what can be done about it, and when is it okay to ‘borrow’ other people’s work in your blog? Let’s explore.

You cannot be someone else for very long

It is difficult to maintain a fake persona. Before long, the mask cracks and the revelation can be extremely damaging.

When you have truly focused on and formed a vibrant picture of your most valuable target market customers, you actually should have little need for copying the work of other people.

By all means, use other people’s work for inspiration and quote your sources (as per my link to the source of the Churchill quote I adapted above), but use their work as a launching pad to your own.

For example, if there is a pertinent article, by all means refer to it, but your readers are typically visiting your website to discover YOUR approach to the products or services you sell.

This is why those consultants who mainly just share links to other people’s work leave an empty feeling inside. You visit their websites to learn about them, to taste and try before you buy, but instead you just get links to material by others. Some sharing is good, but rather sparingly.

Alternatively, the other trap is retailers who don’t want to invest time and effort in drafting THEIR comments about products so instead just paste in text provided by the supplier (rendering their site as useless and bland as most of their competitors) or worse, they link to the supplier’s website.

Writing can be difficult for some, at first, but like all things, practice makes perfect.

But what about that perfect picture?

Of course, images are important for blogs, especially when you share their links through Facebook and Google+ – seeing an image thumbnail next to the shared link makes people more likely to click through and read.

Nothing quite beats using your own images (if they are decent), with Creative Commons images from sites like providing an excellent back up source (be creative in your selection and make sure you credit the photographer and Flickr with a link back to the original).

But when you are critiquing media found elsewhere, such as a news photo, we have some interesting copyright provisions in Australia.

Here is a long quote from the Arts Law website. You can read, and I encourage you to, the full info sheet on legal issues for bloggers here.

You can only use someone else’s images on your blog if:

  • the copyright duration has expired and the work is in the “public domain”;
  • you have the copyright owner’s permission;
  • there is sufficient acknowledgement and using the image would be a “fair dealing” for the purpose of criticism and review, parody and satire, or reporting news; or
  • the image is “clip art” – sometimes referred to as royalty free work, copyright-free work, shareware or freeware (e.g. Creative Commons resources such as OpenPhoto). Prior to using any of these you should read the terms and conditions, or the licensing terms which are usually found in the “click to accept” or “read me” files and ensure that you are able to use the image.

Can I count on “fair use” as a defence if I use someone else’s work?

There is no exception for “fair use” in Australia. In the USA the “fair use” exception is based on the principle that the public should be entitled to freely use small portions of copyright protected work for the purposes of criticism, commentary, or parody. In Australia, the Copyright Act provides “fair dealing” exceptions for the purpose of research or study, criticism or review, parody or satire, and reporting news. When considering whether use of copyright material is fair dealing you need to carefully consider: the purpose and character of the use; nature of the copyrighted work; amount and substantiality of the portion; the effect on the potential market; and whether or not there is an absence of intent to plagiarise. If you are unsure whether your use of someone else’s work constitutes “fair dealing”, you should seek legal advice.

I hope you find this article helpful. Feel free to pass it on but don’t copy it 🙂




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