Following Copyright Law While Blogging


Copyright Laws and Blogging

Copyright laws grant creators exclusive rights to print, publish, perform, and otherwise distribute their work.  And what some bloggers may not realize is that copyright law applies even to them, and that copyright laws cover images as well as print.  So what are some of the laws book bloggers should be concerned with?

Criticism and Fair Use

Criticism and Fair Use

Fair use allows individuals limited use of copyrighted works in their own works without seeking permission from the copyright holder.  While most people are familiar with the application of fair use to teaching and researching, fair use can also apply to criticism or commentary.  For book bloggers, this means that book discussions and book reviews will most likely fall under fair use.

However, there are still guidelines to keep in mind.  The U.S. states that fair use is determined by four features:

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Note that while bloggers may be able to quote copyrighted works in their discussions or reviews, they are usually not allowed to quote a work in its entirety, even under fair use The U.S. Copyright Office clarifies:

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.

Only a “portion” of a copyrighted work can be used for criticism or commentary.  That is, to be on the safe side, bloggers should not quote entire works or even substantial parts of copyrighted works.  Entire poems, if still under copyright, should not be posted on blogs.  Half of an essay from a favorite author should probably not be posted on blogs.  And large chunks of text that are not necessary for the discussion at hand should probably not be posted on blogs.  While it is true that there is no specific word count that bloggers should be aware of while quoting, erring on the side of caution is best.

And, remember, citing a work does not allow bloggers to bypass copyright law.  That is, if a blogger quotes an entire copyrighted poem, providing the title of the volume it came from along with the author’s name does not make the quotation fair use.  By posting the poem in its entirety,  the blogger in this case has still potentially harmed the poet because readers no longer have to buy the book to read this poem.  Instead, they can simply visit the blogger’s site.

Copyright Laws and Images

Copyright law also protects the use of images and photographs.  This means that bloggers cannot grab photographs from Google’s image search, from Instagram, from other blogs, or from websites without checking to make sure that the image is free and legal for others to use.  Even if it is, the image may come with other restrictions such as how the image may be used and/or modified.  If in doubt, bloggers should seek written permission to use the image.  And, as with texts, attribution is not permission.  That is, copying an image from Instagram and providing a link back to the creator does not grant a blogger permission to use the image.

Keep in mind that image theft is just as serious as pirating a copyrighted text.  Oftentimes artists lose money or see their brand damaged when their work is stolen and posted across the Internet.  Even if an image is copied from Instagram or another blog, the original creator may lose traffic and views now that they are no longer the only place where their work can be found.


Bloggers sometimes assume that fair use laws and attribution enable them to use copyrighted texts without permission.  However, this not always the case.  Bloggers should familiarize themselves with the details of copyright law and fair usage.  And, when in doubt, always ask permission.

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26 thoughts on “Following Copyright Law While Blogging

      • Krysta says:

        Yeah, though cover art could conceivably be considered an image that you are disseminating, publishers seem to be willing to provide cover images and allow others to distribute them for marketing purposes. Some people take their own photos, partially to be cool, perhaps partially to have their own images. However, they’re still distributing the artwork, even if they take a photo of the book themselves with an artsy background. But publishers seem to encourage this. More exposure for the title on Instagram, etc. only benefits them.

        Liked by 2 people

  1. Mattie @ Living Mattie says:

    Thank you for this – it’s always good to know what the laws are! This is why I get all my images from websites like Unsplash, where they specifically say you can reproduce the images – you know you’re safe that way.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. (Danielle) Books, Vertigo and Tea says:

    Very fantastic post with a much-needed reminder! I would like to think that surely we do not have to tell individuals that including a piece of work in its entirety or even a substantial length is infringement, but lately I have seen some questionable posts 😦 I have seen who chapters and rather large excerpts posted that do not appear to be at the author or publishers consent. It is concerning trend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      I’ve seen several bloggers post full-length poems, multiple poems from a collection, etc. I think they believe they are showcasing the book, but once you’ve posted 10+ poems from a collection, you have eliminated the need for your readers to buy the collection. I wish more bloggers understood this as bloggers generally want to help authors succeed, not cause a decrease in sales!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Milliebot says:

    Very informative! The picture thing is a struggle for me. I use cover images from goodreads and sometimes Amazon and Netgalley. Do you think that’s not allowed? I used to use a few images from Google and follow them to the source to see but most of the time the website I find them on isn’t really where they’re from. I try not to do that anymore. It’s tough!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Grab the Lapels says:

    I see some bloggers quote huge passages of text instead of summarizing or paraphrasing. I think it’s not only a question of copyright law, but also why a blogger needs so much quote. I’ve often come to the conclusion that they may not be as confident in their writing skills or have not learned that excessive quoting isn’t acceptable in any essay genre, of which book reviews are.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      That could be! Sort of like students writing block quotes to hit the page length? I think some writers are, as you say, not confident in their own ability to say something interesting on a topic, so they quote instead.


      • Grab the Lapels says:

        Yes, I teach composition at a private college, and a good portion of the semester is reserved for teaching paraphrasing. Technically, when we quote, we are supposed to provide context, the quote, and the an interpretation (which is an awful lot like a paraphrase).

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction says:

    I never really thought much about this when it comes to text because I don’t quote much on my blog, but I could see this being a big issue with poetry that someone might not really think about. Images, I’m very careful about. I have several sources for free images and one site I’ve paid for (a lifetime subscription through a discount site that was a fantastic deal!)

    Liked by 1 person

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