These days, any of us can be a blogger. Gone are the days when you needed to be a print journalist or published author to get your writings in front of the public. Now, with just a web presence and an interesting angle on life – be it about sport, politics, food, music, you name it – you can blog and, what’s more, you can be read by thousands or even millions.
However, in addition to the web presence and a literary flair, you should in fact have something else as well: at least some awareness of intellectual property (“IP”) and its impact on your blogging world. IP is essentially about protecting our intellectual creations, and that includes of course our blog entries. But whatever A has protected, B may infringe. So, when we look at blogging and IP, you need to look in both directions: how can you, as a blogger, protect your IP and also, how can you ensure that you, as that blogger, do not infringe the IP of another person? Here today we look at “A” – what you have protected. In the next blog, we look at “B” – avoiding infringing what some one else has created or protected.
While IP embraces a bundle of different rights, in this blog we are going to look briefly at the two most important rights for bloggers: trade marks and copyright.
It really is amazing that some bloggers enjoy a huge reputation online and yet they have never protected their blog identity by means of trade mark registration. For example, it seems that Turner Barr – about whom we say a little below – of “Around the World in 80 Jobs” fame, did not file a trade mark application until after he had settled what is probably one of the most high-profile IP blog disputes to date.
Blogs do not respect national borders
Blogs, being online, do not respect national borders which can make trade mark protection, being generally national in nature, potentially complex. However, it is advisable to file to register your blog name and blog identity as trade marks at least in your home country. By means of the priority filing system, you can file elsewhere in the world within 6 months of your initial home filing and maintain the original filing date.
Let’s turn to copyright. Copyright arises automatically as soon as your writings, photos, music or other creations are fixed in a recorded form. For example, as soon as you save your blog entry on your computer, it is protected by copyright as a literary work. Similarly, as soon as you take a photograph on your mobile phone, it too can be protected as an artistic work.
As for your blog content – such as your blog entries, photographs – it is advisable to always keep a dated record (for example, in your computer files) in case you should ever need to prove not only that you created the work, but also when you did so. It is a good idea too to use the copyright symbol – © – not just on your home page (e.g. © Job Bloggs, 2017) but at the foot of each of your blog entries and alongside your other creations such as photographs. Use of the © symbol is generally not obligatory but it gives notice to the world that the material is protected by copyright and Courts will often proceed on the assumption that it is protected by copyright.
Although Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are not liable if another person takes your blog material and posts it elsewhere online, you still have options. For example, if the infringer refuses to take-down the lifted material, you may be able to achieve that result by filing a take-down notice with the website provider. Social media companies such as Facebook have well-established take-down procedures by which they will remove infringing content upon proof that it infringes your IP rights, including your trade marks and copyright.
What then about Turner Barr mentioned above? Turner created a highly-successful blog called “Around the World in 80 Jobs” which recounted his experiences as a young millenial in obtaining sometimes strange and wonderful jobs around the globe but which also provided information and advice to young people about gaining employment. In 2013, Swiss employment company Adecco produced their own version of his blog, and they filed trade mark applications in various countries for “Around the World in 80 Jobs”. Happily, all’s well that end’s well. After a sustained campaign on social media, Adecco agreed to drop its version of “Around the World in 80 Jobs”, and withdrew its trade mark filings.
It’s worth noting though that it might have been much more straight-forward for Turner if he had filed to protect his blog presence as a trade mark before his dispute with Adecco.
So, in sum, if you blog you have IP. Make sure both to protect your blog IP to avoid infringing the IP of others. In the next blog, we will have a look at some of the issues surrounding using the material of other people in your blog and how to avoid common mistakes.