How do I copyright my blog?
July 10, 2010 8:31 AM   Subscribe

How do I copyright my blog without paying a copyright fee everyday for each entry?

I've only ever copyrighted sound recordings before.
Now I'm concerned with registering my daily blog legally.

I don't have to pay for each time I register a blog, do I?

I'm checking with the U.S. Copyright Office, but are there any pitfalls, pointers, etc.?
posted by herbplarfegan to Writing & Language (24 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
After the second raccoon, make your own CC license.
posted by lee at 8:37 AM on July 10, 2010

Copyright is automatic. You don't even need to write "© 2010 John Doe" on the blog. You automatically own copyright to everything you have written, and can enforce that copyright if necessary regardless of whether you have registered it.

Is there some reason you feel that you need to register?
posted by cribcage at 8:40 AM on July 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

You automatically own the copyright to anything you create. Registering your copyrights will make it easier to prove your ownership and sue for damages. However, it's probably a waste of time and money. Your content is almost sure to get stolen and in most cases you're not going to be able to do much about it even if you have enough money to hire an army of lawyers.
posted by 14580 at 8:44 AM on July 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

You don't need to register anything with anyone to retain copyright (the same goes for sound recordings — if you paid for that then you wasted your money). Just assert whatever license you want. In the absence of a statement to the contrary, most jurisdictions assume "all rights reserved" or something similar. One statement for the whole site is sufficient.
You don't even need to write "© 2010 John Doe" on the blog
Not true in all jurisdictions.
posted by caek at 8:45 AM on July 10, 2010

The main benefit to copyright registration is that it creates dated, court-friendly evidence of your ownership of the work, making it much more likely you'd be able to win a court battle against an infringer. To that end you might just consider registering a month's worth of blog entries, or a year's worth, at a time to minimize the number of fees you have to pay.

However I truly wouldn't bother with registering unless you really feel like the risk of infringement merits it.
posted by ctab at 8:47 AM on July 10, 2010

So that it will stand up in court if someone hits Ctrl-C and publishes it, of course.

I don't see how something can be automatically considered mine--
well, I do, but legally, that seems insubstantial.

I know the issue is more complex now, since everyone blogs, and since so many artists go CC (which, to me, is like a carpenter insisting on building free houses his whole life, but that's another discussion).
posted by herbplarfegan at 8:47 AM on July 10, 2010

(woops-- lots more answers went up while I was typing that)
posted by herbplarfegan at 8:49 AM on July 10, 2010

Your content is almost sure to get stolen and in most cases you're not going to be able to do much about it even if you have enough money to hire an army of lawyers..

Well, that's as bleak as it gets on this topic! Anyone wanna weigh in on that?
posted by herbplarfegan at 8:50 AM on July 10, 2010

Your content won't be stolen... it'll be copied, and used as spam bait. You really can't stop that from happening. However that is just an annoyance everyone has to live with. The true value of a blog is the context it provides which binds it to your reputation and identity.
posted by MikeWarot at 9:08 AM on July 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Not true in all jurisdictions.

Assuming you're speaking internationally, I would guess that very little is true across all jurisdictions. But I don't know much about international law.

...Which gets us to the bottom line, I think. 14580's point may be "bleak," but it's accurate at least in one respect: You need to think practically about what you will do in case of infringement—not just theoretically. Yes, registering your work can bolster proof of copyright in a lawsuit. what is the likelihood that your work will be stolen? (Are we talking about a diary-type blog, or are you somebody whose work will have legitimate value worth stealing?) I don't think that likelihood is as high as 14580 makes it seem, but even if he's right, then consider the next question: What will you do, if your work is stolen? If you cannot afford an attorney to help you sue, then it makes little difference whether you can prove your copyright with 95% certainty or with 99%. (And ballpark, those are the numbers you're talking about.)

Put another way: You are asking about spending money today in anticipation of an eventual lawsuit. Fast-forward to the hypothetical day of that lawsuit. Can you afford the attorney? What damages will you collect? This might help you decide whether the registration costs are a smart investment.
posted by cribcage at 9:11 AM on July 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think you have some fundamental misunderstandings of both Copyright and Creative Commons. A good primer on US copyright is Copyright Basics from the US copyright office. It explains in detail how you have copyright on all works and what registration means. Creative Commons is one method of licensing copyrights; it doesn't affect the copyright itself, but rather the rights the creator chooses to give others with that work.

If you are producing work so valuable that you think someone may steal it and you may want to sue them, you need to seek legal advice right now, before publication. Copyright registration does provide extra penalties and avenues for redress, but is complicated and expensive. If you just want to be casually protected from someone stealing and reposting your blog then implicit copyright may be sufficient.
posted by Nelson at 9:12 AM on July 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

If you think that your content will be stolen/copied/whatever, by an infringer that is not so faceless that you could actually find out who they are and sue them, and the value of your content/potential damages that you could actually collect from the infringer is greater than the cost of registering your copyright, hiring lawyers to 1) go to court to try to compel an ISP or webhost to give up the name/info on the infringer, and 2) sue that person or at least get them to settle, then it might be worth that.
posted by ishotjr at 9:16 AM on July 10, 2010

* and by "worth that" I mean worth the cost of registering copyrights so that you have a little bit stronger evidence of ownership for leverage in a settlement/better chances of winning a lawsuit.
posted by ishotjr at 9:17 AM on July 10, 2010

Realistically, you can't stop or sue pirates into oblivion. There's just too many of them doing the same thing for you to sue them all over what I assume is chump change advertising revenue. Hell, even this question has been copied via RSS feed, probably the first of many. You could not publish an RSS feed and that will probably stop them, but at the dramatic expense of your advertising revenue.

An alternative approach: by direct linking to older content in the post, everyone who scrapes that feed and republishes it gives you pagerank.
posted by pwnguin at 9:25 AM on July 10, 2010

Assuming you're speaking internationally, I would guess that very little is true across all jurisdictions. But I don't know much about international law.
Yes, speaking internationally. Copyright is not granted automatically on creation everywhere in the world. It wasn't granted automatically in the U.S. until relatively recently (when they changed this to be consistent with the UK, iirc), and a lot of places that followed the U.S. and have yet to catch up.

If you're putting stuff on the internet and not blocking access by geographical location, you are de facto operating in other jurisdictions. If you're concerned about the possibility of copyright violation in the U.S. (which the O.P. probably shouldn't be, but whatever) then you should be concerned about it worldwide. Adding "©" or "Copyright", the year, and "all rights reserved" (or a statement explaining what rights you reserve) extends protection to every country with credible copyright law, which sounds to me like what the O.P. wants to do. The exact form of the statement is specified in the USCO PDF Nelson linked to.

But yeah, USCO registration is paranoid overkill in almost all modern circumstances, unless you have money and time to burn.
posted by caek at 9:37 AM on July 10, 2010

How much is your content worth?

How much would it cost to sue?

Is it worth it?

If you content is that valuable, don't put it on the web—write a book, screenplay, etc.
posted by I'm Doing the Dishes at 9:57 AM on July 10, 2010

The operative treaty is the Berne Convention. The US joined in 1988.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:27 AM on July 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

WHOIS the domain, find the host, find the upstream provider by traceroute or using somewhere like and send a DMCA Notice to all involved. It's easy to write so make a proforma and send them to the email addresses* you can find for those providers. You don't need to argue with the 'copier' you just need the host to know they are being made liable. Be sure your infringement notice is exact though - vague doesn't work.

Is it worth doing? Once you have the proforma and are happy getting the other info it's a few minutes. You should at least know what to do because one day you might want to use it.

* except Google who very deliberately add a significant hoop - you have to use real mail to send them a DMCA.
posted by markx2 at 11:16 AM on July 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Since you ask, 14580 speaks the truth. If the prospect of having your content copied is sufficiently disturbing for you to be prepared to prosecute with lawyers, then you just shouldn't put it online.

That is what happens on the internet: shit gets copied. I'm not saying it's right; I'm just saying it's what happens.

The fact that you wrote it and published it first can be established through the timestamps on your content, and on the database entries themselves (assuming you're using a regular blogging platform). There is no need to register your copyright; simply having written it means that it is automatically covered.

However, a scenario in which you have to establish ownership in court is... unlikely.
posted by ErikaB at 2:15 PM on July 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Usually about once every few years I find an essay I've written has been copied and reposted on someone's blog, news site, or email group.

If it's attributed and has a link to the original post- I don't sweat it. Yes, it's wack that they've used my writing to shore up their inability to produce content to get advertising, but, then again, as long as the link is there, the people who are actually interested in what I write can find me.

If it's not-attributed, I find the admin for the site and demand a link and credits. The 4-5 times I've had to do this, I've had no real problems getting people to comply.

The only "troublesome" one was the person who was reposting my posts about gaming stuff direct to his blog, repeatedly. I only requested that he not repost them IN FULL and he complied, but only after throwing a man-fit about how my writing helped his gaming and he didn't know better, etc. etc.

On the other hand, I'm not making a living off my writing either, so my investment in having exclusive control over it's access is different.
posted by yeloson at 2:19 PM on July 10, 2010

(I say that as someone who actually is a professional blogger.)
posted by ErikaB at 2:25 PM on July 10, 2010

Anything composed automatically gets copyright. There are special laws that allow published texts into the public domain after a certain time. But under British law, manuscripts by anonymous 17th cent protestors are still under copyright (bc they were never published). Those guys never bothered to register anything.

Question is: is a blog post "published", or a manuscript?
posted by jb at 4:30 PM on July 10, 2010

If you're looking for a third party to verify you are the original publisher, check out Registered Commons.
posted by devnull at 5:21 PM on July 10, 2010

I know nothing about intellectual property law ... But I thought the big benefit of registering your work is that you can get statutory damages in the case of infringement. If you don't register it, your damages are limited to what you can prove your actual damages to be.
posted by jayder at 10:21 PM on July 10, 2010

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