You’ve decided to start a blog and join the world of online publishing—congratulations! Before you jump in, you should know that there are a variety of written and unwritten rules, laws, and ethics that apply to every blogger. In this guide, we will look at the rules you must follow in order to stay out of legal trouble and remain a welcome member of the blogging community.
When you write a blog post about a topic you found via another blog or website, you should attribute your source with a link. Give credit where credit is due. Bloggers who publish content on the public Internet are bound by copyright laws. You don’t want to be accused of plagiarizing another person’s work, so it’s imperative that you always publish original content on your blog and properly cite your sources.
A gray area of copyright law, called fair use, affects bloggers. Under fair use, publishers can republish another person’s content to add commentary or for educational purposes. However, the safest course of action for a blogger is to only republish snippets from other sources along with a link to that source. Also, add your own opinion to the snippet, so the vast majority of content on your blog is original.
Following this guideline will help you stay out of legal trouble and ensure your search engine rankings are not negatively affected, because sites that simply republish content from other sites are often penalized or banned from search engine results.
A very common question among bloggers is related to using images on blogs and in blog posts. Copyright laws protect the original owner of any work, and images are protected by copyright laws just as words and music are. It might seem like a great idea to create a celebrity gossip blog and link to pictures you find on entertainment sites, but doing so is likely to be a violation of copyright laws.
To use an image on your blog without violating any laws, you need permission. You can get permission by requesting it from the image owner, or you can find sources that provide images with copyrights attached to them that allow you to republish them on your blog. The most common copyright licenses you need to understand are:
The last thing you want as a blogger is to earn a reputation as a spammer, which you can unintentionally do if you break some of the unwritten rules of the blogosphere. The social web is a great place to promote yourself, your business, and so on, but members of the blogosphere don’t like self-promoters. The key to growing your blog and your online reputation is to use indirect self-promotion.
Your blog is your own space on the web, and depending on your goals, you can publish the type of content you want and not publish the type of content you don’t want. That’s where blog policies come into the picture. Policies are intended to protect you and your audience as well as set expectations about the type of content that will or will not be published on your blog.
As your blog grows and your posts receive more and more comments, you’ll undoubtedly receive comments you don’t want to publish on your blog or that require minor editing before you’ll publish them. For example, hateful comments that attack individuals usually aren’t welcome on blogs, and comments that include obscenities could be offensive. Similarly, comments that might be spam can hurt the user experience on your blog and should be deleted.
A comment policy allows you to define what types of comments you will delete or edit using the comment moderation tools in your account. Your comment policy also protects you, so you can refer visitors whose comments are edited or deleted to your established policy to understand why their comments were revised or not published at all.
You should publish a terms and conditions of use policy on your blog to protect you. It outlines everything people agree to by visiting your blog.
Keep in mind that blog policies are meant to accomplish two primary goals: establish visitor expectations and protect you. Take some time to read policies on other blogs, create your own to meet your needs, and provide the full disclosures and protection you require.
If you follow these simple rules, you and your blog will be safe. Good luck, and happy blogging!
From The Complete Idiot’s Guide to WordPress by Susan Gunelius