If you have a blog, there are a few legal areas you should know to stay out of legal trouble. You can also use this advice to protect the intellectual property value of your blog.
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You have a copyright in whatever you write on your blog and whatever images you create for your blog. Generally, if someone uses your content without your permission, they have infringed your copyright.
There is an exception for fair use. Fair use would be, for example, if you wanted to quote one sentence from someone’s blog in order to respond to it on your blog. However, if you copy someone’s entire post (e.g. blog scrapers) without their permission, that is not fair use—that is copyright infringement.
Photos are the same way. You can’t post a photographer‘s photos to your blog without first obtaining the photographer’s permission.
You can copy a video, blog post, or image if you have permission. Since YouTube allows you to post their videos on your blog (see YouTube’s terms of service), you are not infringing their copyright.
A trademark is a non-generic name, slogan, or logo that is used in business to refer to a product or service.
A logo is trademarked and copyrighted. You can’t use a logo without permission.
Your Blog’s Name
Your blog name is probably trademarked, as long as it’s unique and not generic. For example, the term Mashable is protected by trademark. But the term Web 2.0 Blog is generic and not protected by trademark.
Writing about Trademarks
On your blog, you can mention a trademarked term when referring to the trademark owner’s product. For example, you can write about Nike shoes, and use an affiliate link so your blog visitors can buy shoes made by Nike.
You can’t use the trademark to associate with another’s product. For example, you can’t advertise your own line of skateboards as “Nike skateboards” because Nike” is already trademarked in a similar product category.
Diluting the Value of a Trademark
You can’t dilute the value of the trademark by associating it with something that would hurt the trademark’s reputation in the minds of consumers. For example, you can’t advertise your pornographic magazine as “Mercedes-Benz Porn,” because you are taking advantage of the Mercedes-Benz trademark to promote your product while diluting the reputation of Mercedes-Benz. The Mercedes-Benz trademark is diluted because some people could think the porn is produced or associated with Mercedes-Benz.
Sometimes it’s difficult to know what is trademarked. For example
- Rollerblade is a trademark. In-line skates is a generic term.
- Klennex is a trademark. Tissue is a generic term.
- Xerox is a trademark. Copy machine is a generic term.
- Apple is a trademark for product categories sold by Apple Computers. Apple is generic when referring to fruit.
When to See a Lawyer
Copyright & Trademark Registration
An intellectual property attorney can help you register a trademark or copyright. Registration gives you additional rights.
Copyright & Trademark Infringement
An intellectual property attorney can send a “cease and desist” letter to someone who is infringing on your copyright or trademark. The attorney can also file a lawsuit against them, forcing them to stop use of your intellectual property and seeking damages.
- Click here for more on the legal consequences of copyright infringement
Gray Areas of the Law
There are many difficult legal areas related to copyright and trademark law. For example, sometimes it is okay to use a trademarked term in a domain name, but sometimes it is not. An intellectual property attorney can help you through these situations if you encounter them.
Although copyright and trademark law is largely the same throughout the United States, each jurisdiction (geographic area) has slight variations. If you have a copyright or trademark question, contact an intellectual property attorney in your area.