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Small Business Advice

Cite Your Sources! How to Credit Photos & Content for your Blog

My clients often ask me what they can and cannot use from other websites when crafting their blog posts. This post is meant to teach you how to properly credit Copy-written original photos and content for use on your blog or website.

New to Blogging? Read This First: (So You Wanna Blog? Here’s what you need to know)

General Considerations:

If you did not create the content then it’s fair to say someone else owns the Copyright to that content and therefore it must be cited. > Tweet This! According to Copyright.gov:

Under the fair use doctrine of the U.S. copyright statute, it is permissible to use limited portions of a work including quotes, for purposes such as commentary, criticism, news reporting, and scholarly reports. There are no legal rules permitting the use of a specific number of words, a certain number of musical notes, or percentage of a work. Whether a particular use qualifies as fair use depends on all the circumstances. See FL 102, Fair Use, and Circular 21Reproductions of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians.  

NOTE: While the above Fair Use Doctrine states you can use “limited portions” and that “There are no legal rules permitting the use of a specific number of words” We suggest you not copy more than 1/2 or preferably 1/3 of the content you are referencing. 

Quoting from a Social Media website:

You can only quote an individual’s public social media comments. Most social media websites have privacy settings to protect users from having their activity from being seen by the public. In other words, if you are not their friend, and or are not logged in to the website, and can still see their comment, you can quote them using the attribution method outlined below.

Sourcing Images & Their Authors:

There are several places you can source images from. The best source is to use your own photo. However, if you need a photo and don’t have one, you can use Google Images to start your research.  Flickr and Pinterest are great places to start because it’s easy to cite the source of the image. (See Warning Below)

If you found an image and you don’t know where it originated from or you suspect the image did not originate on the website you found it on, you can use Tin Eye to do a lightning fast reverse image search to find it’s likely source.

Lastly, you can avoid having to cite the images entirely IF you purchase them from a Royalty Free Photo website such as Fotolia.

Attribution: 

So you’ve established that you can use the content under the above Fair Use Doctrine…you’re still not done! You have to properly identify the author and the source of the content your’e using. Here are my recommendations: 

  1. Indent the Fair Use Content. Visually identify the content that is not yours. You can do this easily in most blog editors by highlighting the text and clicking on the block quote icon.
  2. Author Citation: You should cite the Author of the content either directly above or below your indented Fair Use content. Add the Author’s name Last Name first followed by a comma. Then their First Name and The Publisher website you found the content. Example: (Smith, Edward of The Shipping Times) If no Author is available you can simply cite the Publisher website alone.
  3. Use Segway Text. Another way to cite the Fair Use content is to transition your content to make it flow better. Such as “according to” or “said Edward Smith of The Shipping Times” or “Earlier this week Rockland Voice reported that:”

Link to your source content

Now that you have attributed the Author and the publisher of the Fair Use content you will be using, you will now need to link directly back to the original source.

  • If you are quoting a person’s direct comments you should link from the name of the person.
  • If you are quoting a whole passage of the Fair Use content you should link from the Publishers name or from the text “Read More” or “Read the Full Article” following the Fair Use content.
  • If you are citing an image you should include a link from the image OR the text of the exact URL where it was found. A good place to put this info is in the “Caption Field” of your blog’s image editor. If your website theme doesn’t provide a place for a caption, then you can manually add a link directly after the image placement OR at the bottom of your post using the attribution method above.

Creative Commons

Some content creators have started releasing work under Creative Commons licenses. According to CreativeCommons.org

The Creative Commons copyright licenses and tools forge a balance inside the traditional “all rights reserved” setting that copyright law creates. Our tools give everyone from individual creators to large companies and institutions a simple, standardized way to grant copyright permissions to their creative work. The combination of our tools and our users is a vast and growing digital commons, a pool of content that can be copied, distributed, edited, remixed, and built upon, all within the boundaries of copyright law.

Creative Commons licenses include: Attribution Only, Attribution-ShareAlike and Attribution-No Derivatives. Unless the media specifically indicates that it is covered by a Creative Commons License, you can assume that it isn’t. 

Embedding Content

Most social sites now have an embedding feature that allows you to frame in content from another site on to yours simply by adding code. YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and more all make their content available to easily embed on your blog post. Since the content is not actually on your website but being served up from their website, you can assume the use of it is covered under their Copyright policy. Go to town with this type of content! In this case only, it is not nessasary to cite or attribute the author’s content, although it transitions better when you do.

Get Permission:

It is not necessary to get permission when using the Fair Use Doctrine if you are properly citing the source. However, if you are uploading the content for the first time online or reprinting it from an offline source, you will want to gain written permission from the source.

Creating Good Will:

Properly citing Copy written material is a way of not only complimenting the source for their outstanding content, it has great marketing implications for the content’s Author. When someone properly cites content using proper link attribution it increases the number of inbound links to that website and therefore helps the website’s overall Search Engine rankings. If “Trackbacks” are enabled on their blog your website can appear as a link on the source website automatically. Another important benefit of properly citing the Author’s content is that it provides branding recognition with every impression on your website.

WARNING. Never do this:

NEVER use images you find on Google or other search engine and try to cite Google as the content Author. Take the extra step and click through to the website that was crawled by the search engine and you will have the info you need to properly cite the image.

You MUST get written permission if you are syndicating or reprinting content in it’s entirety. (Copying all of the content exactly as it appeared on the original source)

If you found this content helpful, please LIKE and SHARE It widely. If you have any additional questions, you can ask us a question in the comments below or get private help by contacting us anytime. Happy blogging!

PLEASE NOTE: SuperiorImpact.com is not an Attorney and therefore cannot give you legal advice. Nothing above should be considered legal advice. If you have further legal questions please consult an Attorney for assistance.

*Featured Photo “Folklore NullElf: burning copyright” Credit Martin Fisch on Flickr

About Lawrence Stone

Digital Media Consultant, Mad Scientist/Entrepreneur, & Founder of Superior Impact, Inc.

Posted in: Training

Leave a Comment: (3) →
  • Craig Rosenfeld

    Excellent article & tips. Take if from someone that owns over 1,400 domains.

  • http://facebook.com/jzyehoshua Joshua D. Zambrano

    Good to see some emphasis on proper citation, as an author myself I make a
    serious attempt to always cite writing that is not my own and give
    appropriate credit where credit is due; just a professional courtesy.

  • Flo Crisci

    This was great information- I am looking to start an educational blog for reading instruction and I will be using research from many authors and needed to know how to site their information and strategies. I was happy to see that citing on a blog is similar to citing on a research paper.