Speaker Spotlight: Copyright & The Blogger

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Post by Blog Manager Robbi Hess

I hadn’t absorbed Paul Jorgensen’s bio until we started talking, but we certainly had an energetic conversation about his upcoming BlogPaws Conference session: Copyright for Bloggers. Our conversation was lively, interesting and piqued my interest to hear the entire session when he speaks on Saturday.

Copyright? Who has to worry about it?

Paul explained, “If you use someone else’s content and if someone uses your work, it should be a concern.” As bloggers, chances are we are on both sides of the issue. He said that copyright is a “way to control your own work and how to determine how to let shutterstock_891693people use your content.” Because the blogosphere, he said, is prone to lots of “borrowing” a blogger needs to know when it’s all right to borrow and what permissions you should be requesting and when it’s okay to borrow without permission. “I imagine that bloggers have some knowledge of these concepts simply because they’re writers,” he said.

Fair use?

Paul said that his session last year sparked lively conversation when the topic of fair use came up. “People have a vague idea of what it is and when it comes into play but they didn’t seem to know all of the nuances of how it works. That’s why I am here – to make things easier to understand.”

Does a blogger have to lose sleep worrying about copyright being violated or about violating the copyright of another?

You don’t need to lose sleep, Paul says, but you do need a baseline knowledge of copyright and you need to have an idea of when – and when not – to call a lawyer for advice. “If you understand your rights around what you create you can be protected.”

“You need to know when to push the panic button and that is one of the best things I can provide for a blogger and my clients, to let them know when they should and shouldn’t do something,” he said. “There will be people in the audience that are risk takers and there are those that are nervous about publishing their work. I’m here to let you know you don’t need a lawyer for everything but you do need to know enough to know when you need one.”

Is everything a blogger writes protected?

Paul said that no, not everything you write is protected. For example, if I wrote a blog post “Five ways to get a pug to stop snoring” (a topic Paul tossed out as an example and as a pug parent) that would likely be a copyrighted post. If, however, you were going to create a list of telephone numbers, for example, even if it was the most creative layout of those numbers, chances are it’s not copyright material because lists and maps aren’t typically considered creative and therefore don’t rise to the level of copyrighted work.

Can copyright be cool?

Paul said that it can! “The cool thing about copyright is that your material is copyrighted the moment you create it. The moment it is in reproducible form, it’s considered copyrighted.”

I used to each writing classes and many of the people in the classes said one of the ways to protect yourself and your material was to mail the manuscript to yourself and then not open the envelope until you had to prove ownership. Paul said that was a bit of a wive’s tale. “But, in today’s electronic age, you don’t need to do that because almost everything you write online has an electronic date stamp.”

What if I want to use your copy on my website? Am I violating any laws?

Paul explains that if you curate content and say, “here is a great article I found about, ‘How to make a pug stop snoring,’ click here to read the rest.” If you do that, chances are you aren’t breaking any laws. If, however you copy and paste an entire post onto your site without attribution, you could be in violation of copyright laws.

Paul explains that if you work with content providers or if you curate the content of others you should have at least a simple contract in place as a protection to yourself about the content you’re receiving. “We will talk about that during the session.”

What will we learn?

“You’ll walk away knowing more about how to protect yourself and your work,” he says. “You will also learn about parity and fair use and when you can and can’t use certain information and what you need to do to secure the right to use that material.”

He will be offering at least three tools that bloggers can take away with them and put into use on their own blogs immediately. “Your writing and blogging and your day will be more streamlined following the session than it was before,” he said.

He said it will be a fun, informative session because, “When you’re at the geek level of what you do, and I am, you are just excited about the topic and that makes people more open and willing to ask questions and get a conversation going.”

Paul_JorgensenAbout Paul: Paul C. Jorgensen is an energetic and popular instructor returning to BlogPaws 2014 after his popular presentation last year. Paul founded and runs The Jorgensen Law Firm PLLC in Washington, D.C., providing cost-effective and personalized counsel in intellectual property and contracts to individuals, organizations and large businesses worldwide.  The Firm also provides pro bono legal counsel to The National Cherry Blossom Festival and the District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities.  Paul was honored with the 2012 Mayor’s Arts Award for his longtime dedication to the arts in Washington D.C. Connect with Paul through www.jorgensenfirm.com.

(Photo Shutterstock: Dogs at school)