When Does Reblogging and Pinning Things Violate Copyright?


We All Like to Reblog by Andy P, WordPress.com, June 1, 2010
Have you ever come across a blog post that you enjoyed so much you wanted to easily share it with the readers of your own blog? Sure, you can copy and paste the link and perhaps even a snippet of text with your own comments, but overall it’s not a particularly enjoyable experience. We wanted to change this and make sharing other posts with your readers as easy as posting to your blog.

On December 5, 2011, I got a notice that one of my posts had been Reblogged. When I clicked the link that pointed to the site that had reblogged me, this image is what I saw:

In the case of this particular post, the reblog contained about half of what I said, plus one of my photos in its original size. The Blogger that copied my post did not add any of their own content.

I was not asked for, nor did I give permission for someone to copy and post one of my photos. Reblogging, in this case, looks an awful lot like content theft.

Content theft happens all the time on the internet, but that doesn’t make it right. Each and every one of us holds a Copyright to the content on our blogs, as long as we are the original writer of the words, photographer of our photos, or designer of our graphics. We don’t even have to post a notice of Copyright for this to be so. (But it is a good idea to do this to remind others that your content is not free for the taking. WordPress discusses how to Prevent Content Theft.)

No one else is allowed to copy this content in it’s entirety without our express permission. They can, however, take small excerpts from it for inclusion in their work, provided they give us credit. These snippets should be for the purpose of criticism, commentary or news reporting and are considered “fair use”.

In the case of a photograph or graphic, the photographer or graphic artist has the sole right to produce and reproduce the photograph or any substantial part of it. No one can use that photo or graphic without permission.

All WordPress Bloggers signed Terms of Service. We agree that we will not “download, copy and use Content that infringes the proprietary rights, including but not limited to the copyright, patent, trademark or trade secret rights, of any third party”. In turn, we as bloggers “grant Automattic a world-wide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, modify, adapt and publish the Content solely for the purpose of displaying, distributing and promoting our blog.”

I contacted the owner of the blog that has violated my photo copyright. They did not approve my comment, respond to my complaint, or remove my photo. I contacted WordPress and asked them to facilitate the removal of my photo from this site. WordPress eventually responded by blocking the offending blog completely.

So, what do you think about Reblogging? Does it look like content theft to you?
Have you ever included photos or graphics in your blog that you have not obtained permission to use?

Pinterest and Copyright

Copyright law governs the use of these works on the internet, just as it does in all other forms of publication. Contrary to popular opinion, everything on the Internet is NOT in the Public Domain.

Perhaps the largest segment of the internet population who violate Copyright (and there are over 70 million of them now) are Pinterest Users.   Copyright violation (content theft) occurs every time a Pinterest User ‘pins’ a photo or an article to one of their boards – unless they get the permission of the author or the artist to do so. The reason it is content theft is simple. Pinterest pins are exact duplicates of the original content which is stripped of identifying metadata and then stored on Pinterest’s servers.

Pinterest Pins are not thumbnails (thumbnails are not copyright violation because you have to go to the original source to see the full picture.) Pinterest Pins are not embedded links (like embedded video clip links, which are also not copyright violation.) Pins are a duplication of material that was created by someone else for use on their website. If the creator of that material does not give you permission to put that material on your page or board, you are violating the author or artists copyright.

Pinterest knows that Pinterest Users violate copyright all the time, but it isn’t really a concern of this well funded company (currently valued at $3.8 billion). Pinterest won’t be the ones on the hook if the original authors of the content get fed up with content theft. Pinterest have absolved themselves of any wrongdoing by stating that they “respect the intellectual property rights of others” and that that they expect their users to respect these property rights  too. Pinterest goes on to say that the user is solely responsible for the User Content  they post to Pinterest.

Pinterest also thinks they can do an end run around Copyright. They offer the owners of the original content a code that will prevent Pinterest users from being able to pin from code protected sites. This suggests that Pinterest believes that nothing is copyright unless the owner takes the responsibility of inserting the code into their site.

The vast majority of Pinterest Users do not even realize that they are guilty of content theft. If they do understand what that is, they don’t think they will ever be caught doing it, and if they are caught, they believe it is highly unlikely they will be sued. In their minds, what they are doing is really just the digital equivalent of the scrapbooks they used to make from the pretty pictures and comics they tore out of newspapers or magazines.

The difference between paper scrapbooks and internet ones is subtle, but important. When you buy a newspaper or magazine, you are not copying and distributing the item. You simply purchased the material for your own use.  If you were to scan and post that picture or comic to a website where it is available for illegal copying and downloading, you would then be violating the copyright of the author of the work. The same applies to the photo or article that you pin to your Pinterest Board. You have taken another person’s work (which you have not paid for) and made it available to the world without the author or artist’s permission.

Why is this a big deal to the person whose work has been taken?  When a photo is pinned to a board, it becomes a competing version of that image. This often siphons image search traffic away from the source site. If that source site is trying to sell their work, that affects their business. Many Pinterest users gather their pins from other Pinterest Users. This means that Pinterest Users don’t even have to go to the original source of the image at all, and that further erodes traffic to the very people who are producing the work in the first place.

Last, but not least – Pinterest is setting themselves up to make some serious money through advertising. They have started off with Sponsored Pins – which are promotions for certain pins from a select group of businesses. These pins will be targeted to match the content the users pin to their boards.  Where does that content come from? All the creative people who take photos and create art and write the stories that get ‘appropriated’ by Pinterest users.  Will any of those creative people be financially compensated for that content? Not likely.

I’d like to end this story with a lesson as to what can happen if a person ‘borrows’ a nice picture without getting permission. This  is a post by blogger Roni Loren: (Bloggers Beware: You CAN Get Sued For Using Pics on Your Blog – My Story).  Another story about being sued comes from The Content Factory.

45 thoughts on “When Does Reblogging and Pinning Things Violate Copyright?

  1. Margie, i lost a very good blog for copying ( bad boy ) i believe the rules are to add a name where you got the photo.
    I always try to use copyright free photos, or from newspapers.
    Wordpress are on holiday until the new year, i’m waiting as well 🙂
    But that post is content theft, no doubt about it, no wonder your comments still there.
    I’ll try and find a tool you use and it can trace theft and i think you report it to them.


    1. Hi Pensioner – I don’t agree that it is okay to use a photo (or graphic) as long as you add the photographers name to it. That is still content theft, unless permission is given to use the photo.
      I can proceed with a Takedown Notice, I suppose, but I think this is an issue that WordPress needs to address and they are the ones that need to investigate the blog in question.
      My complaint to WordPress was sent on the 15th of December, so hopefully I will get a reply once the Happiness Engineers return from their Christmas break.


        1. Thanks Pensioner, but I am aware of how to watermark. I put a Copyright Notice on the corner of each of my photos, and I believe that is sufficient identification.


  2. I am so glad to see someone else writing about and pondering the question of reblogging. I’ve had several of my blog posts reblogged and posted on blogs that have no original content. I started placing those reblog notices (which would normally show up in comments) in spam. It’s not a great solution, but at least it took them out of the legitimate comments. The WordPress response to complaints about reblogging, so far, have been “reblogging is no different from having someone link to your blog post, and you don’t mind that, do you?”

    I agree with you that it looks, smells, and acts like content theft. It’s one thing to have a fellow blogger link to a blog post they like. It’s a link, it’s not a copy of my blog post or my images. It’s quite another to have blog posts lifted, including ALL of my images used in those posts, without being asked for permission.

    In answer to your last question, I have not used graphics or images without permission. In some cases, permission was not necessary (as in the use of graphics for blog awards, NaBloPoMo, etc., where you’re instructed on how to use them if you’re participating).


    1. Hi Robin – I am glad to find someone who is as concerned as I am!
      I have left the reblog notice as an Unapproved Comment and will delete it once the issue is resolved one way or another.
      WordPress is wrong, in my opinion, in thinking that “reblogging is no different from having someone link to your blog post.”
      Clearly you understand the meaning of copyright!


  3. I can see where that may be infringing on your rights. I have copied blogs from my sister so hopefully she isn’t annoyed. 🙂 In fact, I have only done so to give HER credit and to draw others to her terrific blog. However, I should ask even my own sister.
    This post today made me stop and think. While I might find it a good thing to share something I like that I have read, I guess I would be better served to name the blog that others may like to check out.
    All the best with this.


  4. Hi,
    I find reblogging is a lot different than someone putting in a few words and a link back to your post. I agree, it certainly doesn’t seem right.

    Using your photo is definitely not one, it is in violation of copyright, and to use it they must ask permission to do so unless you personally have stated otherwise on your blog. dripplingpensioner is right support won’t be back till sometime in January, but you certainly did the right thing in reporting this, and it will be interesting to find out what support will say when you finally get an answer from them.


    1. Hi Mags – The blog that reblogged my blog post (and that must be some sort of record for the number of times the word ‘blog’ can be used in a phrase) has not added any content of their own. Their entire blog consists of reblogged posts. That, to me, is wrong on so many levels, and I would hope that WordPress thinks it is a violation of their Terms of Service…
      Here is a thought – wouldn’t it be ironic if my reblogged post was Freshly Pressed!


      1. To me that crosses over to spamming, and there are several sites that do this to redirect traffic to their site and then it blog is either as an ad generator, or porn site. Some may be having fun with it and it seems innocent, but the more your images and text regurgitates around the web it loses all context and reference to the original creator and becomes open season for copyright abuse. I can’t tell you how many people have used my images for products, promotional events ect and then say, “oh I found it on google search and it’s everywhere so it must be public domain”. It is hurting artists and photographers not just by losing income but crushing to our creativity and time.


        1. I can certainly understand how distressing this is to you. You obviously put a lot of time and thought into your work, and it is so unfair when it is stolen.


  5. My opinion: what happened to you was content theft, pure and simple.

    Opinion #2: this whole “reblogging” business is problematic; the term itself seems to imply it’s somehow OK to cop a free post out of someone else’s work.

    Opinion #3: WordPress has a serious conflict of interest here: they put ads on people’s blogs; for them, the more blogs the better; ergo, WP has a vested interest in reblogging since it creates more ad space.

    Really sorry for your bad experience and ensuing frustration. Hang in there.


    1. Hi Mark – I hadn’t thought about what value WP gets from attracting more bloggers and therefore more blog posts. But clearly they have to derive an income from somewhere! I agree that there is a conflict of interest in reblogging. It allows some bloggers to violate the rights that WP clearly states all bloggers have.


  6. I read somewhere about a photo copyright violation. A blogger said that she accidently noticed that a restaurant copied her food photo from her blog page and placed outside of the restaurant. She even took a picture of the poster and posted on her blog page with her original food photo.


  7. One of my posts was reblogged on a blog that had no original content. I didn’t really think too much about it. I dumped the trackback comment, because I sure didn’t want to direct anyone to that blog.
    I also don’t think reblogging is the same as linking. I feel it is all right to reblog a small fraction of a post, if you are writing about the same subject. But stealing family photos? That’s obnoxious.
    I have posted a few photos I didn’t take on my blog. They all came from wikimedia and all the photographers had agreed they could be used as long as they were given credit for it. I gladly did that.
    As far as protecting my photos is concerned, there is only so much I am willing to do. I keep the size small enough to make them useless for nice prints (and fast to open in the browser). They are also unobtrusively marked. I blog for fun and refuse to worry about all the silly things people could do with my photos and texts.

    Still, next time someone reblogs and I don’t like it, I will let him and WordPress know.


    1. Hi sanetes. I keep the size of my photos small too, and they are all marked with a copyright notice.
      I believe that all of us should let WordPress know if we come across a reblog that violates copyright.


  8. Hi Margie, As always your post is thought provoking.
    This is a topic I have wondered about. When using Zemanta’s Media Gallery & Related Articles I noticed my posts and photos are there. I don’t mind my articles there when they are used as a related article but I absolutely don’t like when my topics/posts are used out of context and I hate that my photos are there without protection. How do I copyright or add a copyright to my photos and blogs?
    This is very scary to me since January is going to be the launch of my designs for sale.


    1. Hi raggz – Your photos and blog are copyright protected simply because you are the author. But that clearly doesn’t stop some people from stealing your stuff, anymore than it stops a thief who is intent on taking your car or belongings.
      You can post a copyright notice on your blog by adding a text widget to your sidebar.
      You can also add a copyright notice to each of your posts by simply typing what you want to say at the bottom of each post.
      (I don’t know how to add a copyright notice that automatically pins itself to the bottom of each and every post you’ve written…)
      I use a program called FastStone Image Viewer (it is free) to add copyright text to each of my photos before I upload them. It has a Tool called Batch Convert that lets you perform all sorts of actions – I choose the resize, text, and border functions.


      1. I’ve been off the blogosphere for awhile and missed all of this as it happened. Now I am concerned about photos and some of the artwork I have been working on to post or have posted (nothing fancy, just very special to me). This was a concern of mine when I started my first blog and moved on to my second one. I don’t know how to put a watermark on images or photos, but thank you very much, Margie, for bringing this to light and for the information about FastStone Image Viewer.


        1. Hi JSD – As we all know, whatever we post on the internet is there for everyone to see – and steal if they are so inclined. It is the nature of the beast. I’m content with slapping my copyright notice on my photos and hoping that is enough to stop honest people from taking them. I’m not very concerned that people will borrow my words – nothing I say is all that noteworthy.
          I hope you can find a way to reconcile your concerns!


  9. Margie, I don’t agree with re-blogging a post or picture without permission of the owner or author. The last I checked, theft of intellectual property is against the law. I hope you can get an answer for this soon and WordPress will force the blog to delete your photo & article. It’s unfair to you as a blogger, author and photographer.


    1. Hi EC – Yes, it is against the law, but it is a difficult law to enforce. Having said that, I don’t think WP should offer bloggers an easy way to violate copyright.


  10. Well Margie…this topic brings me answers and confusion.
    I’ve seen copyright notices on a number of blogs and wondered, “WHY?” Who would take someone else’s published works? Now I know.

    Of course, because I’m the center of my universe, I’m confused that no one has ever thought my stuff be be decent enough to reblog. At least you write and photo with enough quality that folks want to steal it.

    Sometime ago I googled “Top 10 Blogs” because I wanted to see what created a successful post. All of the sites were collections of quirky, arcane information. In our little section of the world, we live in a different blog village. We have community. We miss each other and share pieces of our lives with each other. (And I’m glad to be in your blog village).

    I’m sorry someone stole a piece of your life—and yet—I can understand why. They wanted to be a piece of the community. But I don’t think you ask too much…it’s the rule of the village…if you want to be a part…you have to respectfully participate.


    1. Well put, Barb. You are right – we are a little blogging village and I consider it a privilege to be part of it. We all have a job in the village, and I don’t think we should welcome a thief into the village any more than we would welcome one into our homes.

      I would be more tolerant of this reblogger if they used my content to augment their own views. But this blogger doesn’t appear to do that. Their blog, from the few pages I viewed, seems to consist entirely of reblogs. I also think they are probably using automated software to select the content, and I was a random choice. I suspect this because this blog had more than 15 reblogged posts on December 19 alone, and we all know that a normal blogger wouldn’t do something like that…


  11. I think I’ve had a couple of my posts re-blogged and I took it as a compliment. I never considered it as stealing my content. I suppose every time we put anything on the internet, it is subject to people “lifting” it no matter how we try to protect it with copyright warnings.

    “Fair Use” is ambiguous and people do stretch the boundaries. I lift pictures from Google Images for my posts. I know this is technically not proper and I should get permission. Because I’m not selling anything on my site, I feel I’m safe under “fair use.” If I’m not, then I’ll have to change things on my blog.

    What that blogger did to you seems to have crossed a line and I hope the WordPress people can do something about it.


    1. Hi Lorna – As you know, linking and reblogging are quite different, with Fair Use coming into play with reblogging of written content.
      When it comes to images, there is, in my opinion, no such thing as Fair Use. The person who creates the image either lets others copy it, or not. If you copy it without permission, and someone discovers this, you could be asked to remove the content. I suppose you could be asked to pay for the image if you are using one that would normally have been sold.
      Now and then I post images by a cartoon artist who I know (Toonaday). I have paid for his art, and have asked his permission to use it in my blog. His cartoons are very popular, and now and then I find someone who uses his cartoons. If there is no credit given, then I contact the Toonaday artist, who then determines if his art was purchased, or has been lifted.
      There are lots of sources of free to use images, and I’ll be posting links to those soon!


  12. Hi Margie….This is such a touchy subject for me! I’m so glad you posted it!
    I just posted a Copyright on my blog’s side bar. I also add it to the end of every post by hand (just recently). My photos are watermarked. But, will all of this stop the person who wants to take my content? Or the person who just doesn’t understand? (there may be a few of those) Just a few days ago I got a “like” from a blog that I follow. I thought I’d go check out his blog. Imagine my surprise when I saw MY POST, including my PHOTO sitting in front of me on my screen! He had made the title into a link. But that was it. He did not ask permission…and there was my photo with my watermark screaming for everyone to see. He has many re-blogged posts I noticed, as I went through his archives. (looking for more of mine!)
    I saw something else on a site I really want.. in a medium sized block…that no one could miss…something on the order of: DO NOT TAKE ANY OF THIS CONTENT. I’ll have to look for it again. Thanks again for your post.
    ** a good place for photos: flickr’s Creative Commons…where photos are available w/o copyright, but I like to give credit anyway. I’ve never used them in this blog.
    Google has a similar set-up.


    1. Hi Judy – I can certainly relate to your distress in seeing your photo on someone elses blog!
      I agree that you can slap copyright notices all over things, but some people just take the stuff anyhow.
      I am working on a follow up post that will give some sources for free images.


  13. The banner from Copyscape is free, as is the service of checking yourself if there are copies of your creations anywhere on the web.
    Thank you Judy for the link 🙂


  14. Margie…
    Hi.. Blogging life can get crazy. I’ve missed not getting back here to your blog. I apologize. Your blog is a special one!
    I wondered how you felt about the new “Reblog” button on the top bar of our pages…? I see more reblogging happening as I go from blog to blog now. I’m really not happy about it. I tried to find somewhere on WP to write about it…but could not find any place. In my opinion they just made it easier to take our content. ;(


  15. Margie, I saw your comment on the new WP reblogging is back post. I added my voice to the naysayers and they responded in a flippant manner. When I added a calm and concise clarification comment , they didn’t publish it, so I guess that they don’t really have a problem with censorship either. I am getting some traffic on my blog from others who feel the same way, which is interesting and indicative of some real discontent about this issue.


    1. Hi Composer – There has been a lot of discussion about reblogging in the WordPress forums. There is a list of them here: http://en.forums.wordpress.com/search.php?q=reblog
      I don’t think reblogging is going to go away, and I don’t think we are going to be given an option to disable it. My tactic will be to report to WordPress every time I get reblogged – if one of my copyright photos is used without my permission.


    2. composer – I didn’t like the answer you got to your first comment on the WP blogging post either, but I did see your second post and Matt’s answer. You need to click a line somewhere at the bottom to see the newer comments. Or did you write a third comment as well?


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