Observe Copyright Laws
The internet is a place of free exchange. Many people offer their ideas, code, images, and posts up for free, but just because many people do does not mean that everyone is obligated to do so. Intellectual property is a very real thing. You should know who created or owns the things that you post. If you plan to post someone else’s content, whether it be images, copy or ideas, you need to recognize that those things belong to someone else. Copyright law is confusing. I admit it, but convoluted and antiquated legislation does not give you license to steal.
I operate based on a simple 2-part personal policy when it comes to posting potential intellectual property. If I can buy it, I do. If I can’t, then I ask.
If someone is trying to make a living by selling their content, it is wrong to post it without paying for it. Don’t be cheap. If the video, image or paragraph that you were hoping to use is for sale somewhere, then buy it.
If no one is trying to feed their family with the sale of that piece of content, then do the research required to find out its origin, and ask for permission to repost it. Most people will be fine with this; after all it means exposure for them.
The one exception to this policy is content that has been obviously created for the purpose of reposting. This infographic by Brian Clark at Copyblogger for example. Take note of the emebed code at the bottom of the post. Brian intends for this to be shared, and he says so.
Give Credit Where Credit is Due
Even when observing copyright laws, it is still rude to repost content without giving credit to its source. You ought to spell out who made the thing that you are using and link to their site. Do both. Skipping either the written byline or the link is underhanded and could be perceived as a purposeful slight.
Sometimes, you won’t be able to figure out who made the thing that you are sharing. Some internet memes get shared so prolifically that it becomes impossible to nail down a reliable point of origin. In that case, link to the place where you found it. If someone corrects you, or claims ownership you can adjust your post later.
A Hotlink is the practice of linking to the media content (images, videos, etc.) from another site without uploading it to your own. The problem with hot linking is that it draws on someone else’s webhosting resources (storage and bandwidth) to power your website. This is rude. If you are using a piece of borrowed or reposted media (see the two steps above) you must download it to your computer and upload it to your website. It takes a couple extra steps, but not doing so is very rude and could become expensive for the person that you are stealing from. Some of the snarkier bloggers will even build a script into their page to prevent hotlinks.
Don’t Use Caps lock… ever!
On the internet, or in a text-driven communication of any kind, ALL-CAPS text is considered shouting. Don’t do it. Ever! Period!
Publish a Commenting Policy and Enforce It
The most unique and potentially the most controversial component of blogging as a communication medium is the commenting feature. Whenever you invite people to contribute their own opinions to your website, you are going to get a mixed response. Some of the discourse will be enriching and beneficial for everyone, and that is why commenting is so powerful. However, some comments will be little more than drivel, and others will be downright offensive.
You ought to establish a clear commenting policy for your website that will make clear under what circumstances you will delete comments. This will make serious commenters feel safe about joining the conversation on your website. It will give you recourse should something said in the comments on your site become threatening or illegal.
One of the best commenting policies that I’ve ever read was constructed by Michael Hyatt. Hyatt’s commenting policy consists of 7 points and covers everything from spam to intellectual property rights. He even marks his policy with a creative commons license, so if you like it, you can just copy it… and give credit of course.
Alyse is a marketing, photography, and tech addict who spends her time investigating the next generation of technology. When she is not brushing up on her art of the scientific know how in the world, you can find her contributing to http://www.attsavings.com/ the home of High Speed Internet or on Twitter @Alyse_1.