biz ladiesLife & Business

biz ladies: online etiquette and ethics (part 1)

by Grace Bonney

Last week, Kate and I flew to Utah to attend the Altitude Design Summit, which, much like last year, did not disappoint. The conference was jam-packed with amazing panels, people and enough inspiration to keep me going for a few months with new ideas. I was excited to speak on a panel again this year discussing Online Etiquette and Ethics.

Alt’s schedule was filled to the brim with slightly sexier topics that involved learning how to make money with your blog and how to throw amazing parties, so a big part of me was worried that no one would come to a panel that might be a bit controversial or even a bit difficult in terms of tackling somewhat tough topics. But I was thrilled and surprised to see people fill the room and really enjoy learning from some of the sticky situations that my fantastic panel mates — Joy from Oh Joy! and Emily from Once Wed — and I had navigated. Our panel ended up taking 50 of our 60 minutes, so I wanted to share the information, tips and advice we shared during the talk, as well as some ideas audience members shared.

Because we had a pretty info-heavy presentation, I’m breaking the notes into three parts. Starting today with

Part 1: Comments (Good and Bad), Copying/Stealing and Crediting.

These topics were the heaviest and stickiest addressed, so I’m going to do my best to summarize what we discussed. Our goal was not to hand attendees a list of rules but rather to learn from each other’s experiences and discuss how to manage tough situations and form better relationships with other bloggers.

*Just like our panel, I’m more than happy to answer comments in the comment section below regarding today’s topic. I’ll pass these on to my panel mates as well, so they can weigh in when they have time. So please consider this an open discussion on the issue. We can all learn from each other’s experiences with these issues.

CLICK HERE for the rest of Part 1: Commenting, Copying/Stealing and Crediting after the jump (it’s over 3,000 words, so hang in there)!


Commenting can seem like one of the easiest topics to cover, but it can actually be pretty tricky. One of the things our panel and the audience agreed about was that comment “etiquette” is changing as quickly as blogs are, and what was once deemed as appropriate or even “good” commenting behavior can sometimes lead to stepping on other bloggers’ toes. So to start this discussion, we tackled the idea of what a great comment would look like for most bloggers.

Joy, Emily and I all agreed that our ideal comments would be those that contributed constructively to an agreement, remained on topic (for the post) and left promotional linking to the providing commenting spaces.

“Good” Comments
I remember just a few years ago, people were telling other bloggers that a great way to promote their blogs was to stick a signature with their blog’s name, motto, URL, Twitter feed, etc. into EVERY comment. This quickly became something that most bloggers I knew hated. It seemed like people were using comments purely as an excuse to promote, and less as a forum for discussion or a space to leave a genuine comment. To me, it felt like going to a cocktail party and giving someone your business card and elevator pitch every time you met them — even if you’d already met them 10 times before. Would you do that in person? Probably not. So why do it online?

Most bloggers leave and accept comments to generate discussions, engagement and “real” interaction between readers. So to have someone constantly chime in with a lot of “Check out my blog’s giveaway!” comments feels like a cheapening of the comment area.

So, if plugging your business or blog feels inappropriate, how do you use your comments to get people to know you, your brand and your blog? Simple: use the comment spaces provided. If you really want to be known as your business name, change your commenting handle to “Jenny from Store B” or just “Store B” and use the provided URL link in every blog’s comment section to make sure your name/handle links straight back to your blog or business. After that, comment often and do your best to make sure your comment contributes something interesting to the conversation. Comments that go beyond “I love it!” or “I hate that!” Stand out the most.*

*Note: Also, keep your comment tone in mind if you’re commenting as the face of your brand. What you say will be associated with your brand, too.

Bottom line: Comment sections are about comments, not self-promotion, so please use them wisely and to build trust with your fellow commenters. Use provided spaces for your business name and links, and leave the body of your comments for topical discussions.

Negative Comments
Negative comments are one of the less-fun parts of blogging. And they’re a place where etiquette (both in leaving them and handling them) comes into play the most. I had the bittersweet honor among my panel mates of being the blog-owner with the most negative-comment experience. In comment sections, emails and through social networking, I’ve learned how to handle and deal with life’s less pleasant commentary. So I wanted to share the methods/steps I’ve created to deal with and manage negative commentary.

But before I dive in, I wanted to share a tip on which all of our panel mates agreed: Come up with a clear, easy-to-understand comment policy and post it on your site (preferably next to where people actually leave comments). People often feel pressured by readers to make their comment sections some sort of Model UN governed by the idea that free speech trumps everything else. But one thing to keep in mind (whether you choose to act on it or not) is that your blog is just that: yours. No one has the right to tell you what you allow and don’t allow on your site. It’s up to you to decide whether or not you allow negative comments or even moderate comments at all. You are well within your right as a blog-owner to moderate (but not modify) comments left on your blog. I’ve chosen to moderate comments over the years based on our current comment policy, which clearly prohibits comments that do not seek to contribute constructively to the discussion, seek to attack someone personally or seek to promote an unrelated business or blog.

Joy, Emily and I all have slightly different comment policies, but we all agreed that the presence of a comment policy is one of the most helpful things when dealing with negative comments. It gives your readers a guideline and sets the tone for your blog’s comment section.*

*Note: There are ups and downs to moderating. Pros: Your readers (and post subjects) feel safe to comment and know they won’t get bashed across the web without any defense. Cons: Some readers feel that blogs should allow any and all comments without moderation. So you may lose (or just hear from) readers who feel that way. As long as you’re transparent about your policy, you give readers the chance to make that choice themselves.

Dealing with Negative Comments
A while ago, someone asked me what I thought about negative comments, so I filled what felt like four pages of a Formspring page with my thoughts and methods for this topic. Rather than take up all of the space here with those tips, I’ll summarize my ideas below and refer to the full post here.

Dealing with negative comments is all about two things: Objectively understanding what the comment says and assessing the commenter’s behavior. Understanding both of those will help you learn to let comments roll off your back and when to step in and say something.

Here’s how I handle negative comments:

1. Assess the comment. This is hard to do because we all take these comments personally. But 90% of the negative comments most of us get aren’t actually about US. They’re about someone hating an object, a piece of art, an idea or a discussion. It’s tough not to take that personally, but the most important thing to do first is to distance yourself from the comment and try to assess whether it’s really a personal attack or just an attack or criticism of an idea/thing. Once you can see the comment clearly for what it is, you’ll be better able to decide whether or not you let it go or hit delete.

2. Assess the commenter’s pattern. I find that understanding someone’s commenting behavior is very helpful. And most helpful is your new best friend: your blog’s IP tool. When someone leaves a comment that bothers me, I click his or her IP address in our WordPress back end to see what else the commenter said. I typically see three different things and here is how I handle them:

  • Drop by Deadbeat: If I see someone’s never been to the site and has never commented before, and all they have to say is something jerky, I tend to just let it go. Sometimes links to your site get out to audiences that don’t understand or appreciate the niche you cover — or just plain don’t like it. They rarely come back, and you’ll notice that these people are the online equivalent to someone walking past you in a mall and rolling their eyes about something you’re wearing. Lame? Yes. Rude? Probably. But a big deal? For me, not so much.
  • Serial Negative Nancy: These people really bug me, mostly because when I click their IP, I notice that all they EVER say are things like “I hate this” or “This is STUPID.” I always wonder why they feel the need to only say negative things, but at the end of the day, I remember that they’re often people who feel negative about most things in life. So personally, I just let it go and know that when they DO leave a positive comment, I’ll know they really, really had to like it. But mostly, I sort of shrug these off (and publish them) as another example of someone who just doesn’t have anything nice to say . . . ever.
  • First-Time Caller: The one time I really get involved with a commenter and their negative comment is if I check their IP and see that they have a history of leaving rational, constructive comments. If this person has proven that she or he is mature and can comment constructively, and then out of nowhere flies off the handle, I see that as a sign that I should pay serious attention. I often email these people directly to discuss the outburst. It almost always leads to defusing the situation and often, learning something I could do better next time to avoid the issue again. These people are valuable learning tools; if they’re normally constructive and then freak out, you may have a chance to get to know a commenter better or learn about something you can do to improve your site.*

*Note: A particularly harsh grammar comment was what inspired me to finally save up and hire a copy editor for D*S. A reader flew off the handle with a huge rant that shocked me, but lead to an email exchange that convinced me that it was time to take that aspect of my site more seriously.

3. What to do next? Now that you’ve assessed the comment and the commenter, you can choose whether to publish or delete the comment. That individual decision is up to each blog owner, but I’d suggest that it’s sometimes more powerful to let a negative comment about you or your blog stand as a sign that you’re strong enough to handle it and let it roll off your back. That said, it’s your site, and you have the right to decide what you publish and don’t publish.


I’ll keep it real, this topic is TOUGH. Namely because we all work so hard on our blogs that it’s difficult not to take similarities personally and feel like they are copied. So here are the points we discussed when it comes to dealing with this topic:

1. Is it really copying? If your post is based on a product, it’s hard to claim copying because PR people often (stupidly) email many bloggers at once, even if they say they don’t. So product or magazine review-based posts are really hard to consider copying. Even if you suspect they are, keep in mind that this may not be the time to “pick a battle.”

*Emily, Joy and I all agreed that the best way to avoid this issue is to consider embracing original content on your site, or content that you create on your own without the help of a magazine, press release, etc. Readers and traffic often follow this type of content because it’s unique to your voice and your site.

2. Handle the issue personally. Most people see something they feel is copied or stolen and fly off the handle. Believe me, I’ve done it myself and know that it’s easy to slide down that slippery slope, and you’ll almost always regret it. Rather than assuming the worst about someone, discuss it personally first. Assume that the person who’s taken a post, idea or column from you was merely showing their love for your work and see if you can diffuse that bomb rather than explode it. Have a calm, personal conversation about your work and how you’d appreciate them not copying it in full, and more often than not, you’ll find a find a nice blogger who didn’t know he or she was stepping on your toes. Discuss a solution you can both live with, and you may even make a new blogging friend.

3. What to do if you can’t handle the issue personally. Know your rights and pick your battles. If you see your content being reproduced online, in print or on TV and know it’s being done at your expense, feel free to get counsel. If it’s serious (i.e., not a smaller personal blog), consider consulting a local lawyer. A lawyer can tell you if it’s worth pursuing legally. In six years of blogging, I’ve only had to do this three times, so I promise, it doesn’t often get to this level.*

*Note: If you find a scraper or spam site profiting from your content (e.g., running it as a feed and selling ads), the fastest way to end that is to contact their site’s service provider and let them know about the copyright violation. They are more likely to respond than the jerks scraping your content.

How To Avoid Copying Someone Else
A good rule of thumb is to never reproduce someone else’s content in full without written permission, period. Always, always summarize someone’s content. An image or two with summary text and a linked credit is a safe, basic level from which to start. Most of the emails I get from people asking how to deal with copying are about people scraping a full post (images included) on their site. If you run someone’s full post, it doesn’t give readers much reason to click on the original site for the full post, so do your best to honor the original source by enticing people to click over and view the full post there.

Post/image/graphic layouts are other areas to avoid lifting. Joy in particular discussed this issue because she puts a lot of time and effort into creating custom graphic headers/layouts for her post images. People often copy those and reproduce them, and that is something bloggers notice as well. There’s nothing wrong with taking inspiration from something, but reproducing content or a layout in full will be considered copying by most bloggers.

How To Protect Yourself
Knowing your rights is a big part of dealing with this issue. Original content is copyrighted the moment you write it on your blog. You can go through the extra effort of working with a copyright lawyer to copyright your content on a yearly basis, but most people are fine with the copyright level that you get from writing something online with your name attached. Beyond that, you may want to be informed about where your content is being run online without your permission or without you knowing it.

WARNING: These tools can be a little bit dangerous because you’ll be tempted to contact them ALL to take down images, text, etc. Please pick your battles and approach people kindly before jumping into legal jargon.

1. Tynt: Tynt is a program you can install in your site’s header that inserts a credit tag/text every time someone copies a chunk of text or images from your site. The code can obviously be removed by the blogger who took your content, but I find it’s a good reminder for them not to take something without crediting.

2. TinEye: TinEye is an astounding tool. Upload any image (regardless of changed file name) and Tineye will find EVERYWHERE it lives on the web. Photographers are using this tool more and more to get compensation for images used without permission, so it’s a good reminder to get permission to use images before you run them.

Bottom line: Don’t use people’s original work or ideas without permission. And if you correctly assess that you’ve been copied, approach people calmly and personally before getting “the law” involved.


Last but not least, if there’s one thing that bloggers can do to avoid stepping on each other’s toes and maintain relationships and non-burned bridges, it’s this: always credit your sources.

With the proliferation of (albeit great) sites like Tumblr and Pinterest, people often forget to credit where they find images, or the crediting process gets watered down by people Tumbl-ing and re-Tumbl-ing things so many times that original sources get lost. What’s the best way to fix this? If you are using someone else’s content, whether it’s text or images, always provide an easy to see link to the original source next to the image or text.

One of the comments we heard most at the panel was, “As a design blogger, I have tons of folders full of images, and I forget where they came from because they’ve been in there for months.” So we came up with a few suggestions:

1. Rename any image you drag off the web with the URL of the site (preferably with the direct link to the post that the image came from).

2. Use a program like Evernote (thanks to Erica, Meagan and Susan for the tip in their Alt Panel!) to organize your inspiration images and keep direct links to things. Keep a program like that on your desktop, laptop, phone or any other device you might use to keep inspiration images, and you can avoid the issue all together.

But do you have to ask for permission for EVERYTHING?
Bottom line? Unless it’s a press release or retail-based promotional post, yes. I’ve learned first-hand (not my finest moment) that personal blogs, Google images, Flickr and Wikipedia are not sources that you can just “link credit” and move on. You should ALWAYS have written permission to run images that aren’t yours.

There is one exception that most design bloggers can regularly take advantage of: promotional images. Images from retail websites (like Crate & Barrel, Anthropologie, Etsy, etc.) and press releases that you’re using to promote or discuss an object are fair use. However, if they come with photo credits, you still need to include them. But if they’re displayed on those public websites or are given to you directly and are within fair use for your work as an online publisher, you can use them.

Good rules of thumb to avoid a lawsuit or angry emails:

  • Never use images from a newspaper without written permission from the publisher’s image holder. I learned, sadly, that even the writer of a written article can’t give you permission to run an image from a newspaper. I ran an image from the NY Times years ago (of which I was the subject), and the Times‘ image service sent me a cease and desist within 48 hours. It was pretty scary, and I learned the hard way that the writer didn’t have permission to give ME permission. So never use those images without written permission from the photographer or the publisher’s image service.
  • Use magazine images carefully. Right now, magazines seem to be letting this slide, but photographers are contacting bloggers more frequently these days to ask for photo removal or payment or with legal threats. Those images sometimes still belong to photographers, so always be careful to credit the photographer and ASK whom you should credit if you can’t find the source.
  • Always get written permission for non-promotional images (discussed above). This written permission will do you wonders should you have to defend yourself in court for image use (which is happening more and more these days).
  • Credit next to the work and credit with a link. Crediting someone after the “jump” in the post, when you’ve already run all their work, will often lead to people not giving you permission to run things. If you’re going to benefit from someone else’s work, it’s polite to credit them next to the meat of their content.
  • Never EVER modify or remove a watermark or copyright mark. That’s a HUGE legal violation and can get you into some really hot water. If you want a non-watermark version, ask for permission from the photo owner or ask if they have an image usage fee.

Bottom line: When in doubt, credit with a text link.

I would love to hear any issues, experiences and ideas you have to share about these topics. There is so much more to the subject, but I don’t want to write a novel, so I’ll bring it to a close here. Questions? Comments? Examples we can all learn from? Please feel free to share it here — I think we all have so much to learn from and share with each other that can help us improve relationships and friendships, not only with bloggers but with our readers as well. xo, grace

*I’m driving home from Tarrytown today and will be home by 3pm EST to answer anything I can’t do from my phone.*

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  • I’m a photo stylist in commercial print photography/ advertising.
    Credit and linking is not enough.

    Professional Photographers OWN their image and sell usage. They can and will sue and win usage fees.

    Credit and links is not good enough, it’s still copyright infringement, and illegal usage.

    • monday

      no one is saying it’s enough if it’s a photographer’s original work- but not all photos online are by professional photographers- some are amateurs that are fine with a credit and link if you have permission. the bottom line this article was communicating was to ALWAYS ask for permission before using.


  • Hi Ladies,
    Thank you sooo much for writing these informative sessions. I’m a new blogger and frankly I had no idea of some of the “rules”. I always signed my blog name because I thought that was what you were supposed to do. I will read everything you wrote, so please know how helpful it is to someone new to “blogland”.

  • I have a question about vintage images. Can I post an image from a vintage book on my blog if I credit the book and designer? i would love to see more vintage inspiration images on the web they are so hard to com by!

    • filthyduchess

      if the image says it’s free for use, then yes. but unless that book comes with a CD of images you can use (even then it might be limited to non commercial use- ie a blog with no ad sales) it’s better to get permission first. some vintage images are public domain- but not all. best to check first.


  • Thank you very much for cataloging the discussions at the event. Since we are new to blogging, this has proven to be a lifesaver for us. There a lot of questions that have been answered and even subjects not thought about yet. Certainly looking forward to the next posts.

  • Saving images with the artist name and site is one thing that I started doing very early on (before I even thought about blogging). I am so grateful that I got into that habit from the very start. My memory is not great so I wanted to be able to find my way back. Turns out it is a good habit for other reasons too, like crediting work on my blog. Thanks for all the insights re handling feedback etc, very useful.

  • As a newbie blogger, I think this post exactly shows me how to keep my blog clean and safe. A great eye-opener for me! I appreciate your effort sharing the REAL information every bloggers should know. Thanks, thanks.

  • I found the online blogging etiquette post so informative and helpful. I am rather new to blogging and am still posting from
    my website. Question: where can I hire/purchase custom graphics , headers and layouts ? Does Joy work exclusively in this capacity for Design sponge? I love-love the graphics on this site. Thank you for sharing all this great information.

    • hi carol!

      you can buy images and some vector work at sites like veer.com and other site like corbis.com

      but for custom layouts, you need to hire someone separately. joy does a bunch of beautiful custom layouts for her site (she’s a graphic designer) but i’m not sure if she does hired custom design work for other blogs. but it’s definitely worth asking. :)

      (we don’t really do custom layouts on d*s yet beyond our web page design, which was done by also-online.com)


  • Thank you for the fantastic info in this, and your 2nd posting.
    We are particularly thrilled to learn about your tynt tip…we are finding our content being copied in part and in full on all kinds of websites (and lots of crazy spam sites) without any requests or notification. We’ve been trying to keep an eye on it via a regular google searches once a month and trying to generally think of it as a compliment…but we’ll install the tynt tool and hope that helps.
    Great job Grace!

  • Thanks so much for this post! As a new blogger, It’s always exciting to share a cool post from another website or blogger, but I definitely want to make sure I am doing it right and not copying anyone’s work! This guide is a really great source of information!

  • Hey Grace!

    Thank you so much for such a great post. I particularly appreciate the info about scraper sites. My site is being completely scraped by several sites who are selling ads and profiting from zero original content. One of the sites in particular is nearly impossible to get in touch with. Knowing I can contact their service provider is a relief!

  • What a fabulous post, really…etiquette on commenting and copying should be given to all of us before we consider blogging.
    I’m sure people use my images too…and wish they would ask prior to using…I would probably say yes gladly…
    anyway, thanks again…this post will be bookmarked for future reference!

  • Thanks a lot for doing this post. I’m new to blogging and the experience has been very much trial and error, so I really appreciate your advice!

  • What should you do when you email someone requesting use of their photo (and offering to link back) and their response, point blank, is to ask for money? I mean, if someone asked to use a pic from my blog with link back, I’d be flattered! Why would some bloggers (not professional photogs, after all) think it’s okay to try to get money for their pics?

    Also, if you put your images up on your blog (indexable by Google) without a watermark, you’re asking for it. I have a friend who learned this the hard, hard way.

    • Kirsten

      Original photos are owned by the creator and they’re well within their rights to ask for a fee. However, is it common in the blog world for non- pro photogs to ask for money? No. But I’d definitely refrain from pushing them on it and just look for a new image to use.

      It’s true google images soaks up most photos, but it doesn’t protect people who use those images without permission. Believe me, I learned the hard way- the owner of the photo can come back as sue you for use well after the fact.


  • Hello, Thank you for writing this post. I’m new to the blogging world and it’s confusing when other bloggers use copywrite material and are still posting with no worries. From now on I will be publishing only personal content or permitted material and thanks again. Ana

  • Hi. First, I just wanted to say, seriously, you have NO idea how much this article impacted me. I had to read everything. I sat here with my head in my hand reading every word that my arm fell asleep, lol. But it is all so important and you are such a wonderful writer. It flows. I found out that so far, I am doing the right thing with my blog. I am new to blogging. about 2 months. I figured, I wouldn’t post my blog or FB page consistently because it would just be overbearing & annoying. I guess I was right. lol. And I ALWAYS give credit to other blogs. And I only share a photo or two. It made me feel good that my manners in the real world are working with the online life. Thanks again for sharing & I really appreciate it. Have a wonderful night,

    • Emily

      Thanks so much for your kind comment. The image of you reading with your head in your hand brought me such joy, you have no idea. It means so much to me to know that someone is listening and caring- it can be a little lonely on this side of the laptop sometimes, so that really made my day. Thanks :)


  • Great post. Loved the section on copying content. It’s so important to give readers more of YOU as a blogger and less of everyone else. It’s great to be inspired by such amazing bloggers as yourself, but credit where credit is due is the bottom line. Love the idea of saving files with the link as the name so you can remember where you found it. It’s something that I’ve struggled with by losing the sources, and this is a sure fire way to know where you found something. Thanks for the great advice, and keep doing what you do.

  • Wow, this is a great post (and series!)!

    I’d be interested to hear what stylists and photographers think since bloggers with proper photo credits (perhaps not always written permission) have the potential to bring in large amounts of exposure and web traffic, which might outweigh not getting written permission.

    Either way, getting permission is the safest route, but it would be interesting to hear their thoughts.

    Great post, thanks taking the time to put this together!

  • Wondeful information…I think part of the issue comes down to having the patience to track down sources and wait for a response to your usage inquiry. The pressure/deadlines to get content out asap may lead to forgoing usage permission, or assuming that no immediate response is a “yes” and running the image(s) anyway.

  • Head also in hand here & kids wanting attention – but was unable to stop reading, I might add with a sense of dread….

    I have realised how green I am when it comes to blogging. I have a tiny not for profit blog that I started more or less as personal inspiration & to share with others the little treasures I have found on the WWW. I do give credit & link back but have now realised what a tangled WWWeb it really is.

    I am now off to draft letters to anyone possible to apologise for using their content/photo’s without permission & of course to request permission. May in fact need to send one or two to DS!

    Thank you so much for the heads up. I think I would just about die if someone contacted me & was upset about the use of their work.


  • Immensely helpful information, I am just starting my own design blog after years of working as designer. After reading so many books, magazines and the excellent blogs and longing to put together ideas and things I like which are different from what a client wants and needs. But the personal nature of blogs makes them a design project in their own right and that needs to be respected.

    All the best, Kelly

  • Posts like these make me feel so sad. I wish we could learn to share and be less mine-centric. I understand the importance of crediting and linking images, and respecting the creator’s wishes, if they don’t want them used. However, I have read so many rants about theft, copyright violations, etc, that sometimes I wonder why people don’t just hole up in their private cave and protect what’s THEIRS. It strikes me as silly and miserly.

    • Berry

      I understand wanting to embrace a sharing spirit- and I think you may be incorrectly connecting a desire to be credited for original work with an unwillingness to share.

      It may be hard to understand until you’ve had someone steal or pass off your hard work as their own, but crediting is merely the first polite step in sharing. I believe strongly that there is a difference between sharing and taking, and the difference is the time it takes for a little common courtesy- asking first.

      I don’t think crediting a source is miserly, but rather part of maintaining a positive community. Of course no community is perfect, but for this particular blogging niche to grow and thrive we need to learn to work together and how best to treat each others’ original work with respect.


  • “I understand the importance of crediting and linking images, and respecting the creator’s wishes, if they don’t want them used.” I am not saying that crediting a source is miserly. I am just lamenting that this conversation exists at all. I feel like there is more ego-driven insistance on ownership than is necessary. I have indeed dealt with online theft, and subsequent attempts to hide that theft from my view. This is not what I am referring to. I feel that fostering an atmosphere of walking on tiptoe so no-one gets offended can stifle creative expression.

    • berry

      i strongly disagree with the idea that asking someone to credit original work somehow stifles creative expression. i don’t think it does. i don’t think it’s creative to make something using someone else’s original work, and then not ask permission on top of it.

      there’s an entire community of people creating beautiful things without taking other people’s work. this article is speaking to those who want to continue in the spirit of sharing and maintaining respect for other people’s original work- if that feels like walking on tip toe, than we’ll have to agree to disagree. but i don’t think asking someone to respect original work is asking them to walk on egg shells. i think it’s merely asking them to be a respectful member of a creative community.


  • Hi – would it be possible to put all of the Biz Ladies articles under a heading in the menu at the left of the website. That would be great! Thanks

  • May I respectfully ask why J Howard Miller is not credited for the Rosie the Riveter image at the beginning of your post? Even if the image is in the public domain or you paid a licensing fee, wouldn’t you want to credit the original artist?

    • hi berry

      we’re using a modified version of the public domain image by a contemporary artist that we credited when the column first started*, per the artist’s request. with ongoing symbols like this, i typically suggest asking the artist what he or she would prefer. this artist created the modified version for us as a (very sweet) surprise and welcomed us to use it for the duration of the column as is.

      *we originally credited both artists when we debuted the column.


  • Even though blogging is sort of casual for some, no matter the style, it IS important to link back to where you found something. One thing I ran into when I first starting a year ago (& am still learning!) is that it can sometimes be difficult to remember Where something you’re blogging about came from..sometimes I’ll save an image I like from a site to blog about it later, & forget to document where that image came from, or say I will document it by bookmarking it, it usually takes a while to find that actual source & I end up wasting time (maybe I’m still at the learning stages of being a more organized blogger! :)).. SO, I eventually created an excel sheet & color-coded the blogs I read & underneath each blog column, place the sites I found through them that I might want to later blog about… it’s Definitely helped me stay organized with my sources if I’m blogging about something that didn’t originally come from me!

    Hearing you (& others on your panel:)) sort of “throw it out there” of what Should be expected of bloggers is SUCH a big step in the right direction for the future of blogging & how to keep it (or steer it towards) as fair as possible, & in that preventing blogging from becoming a jumbled mess that leads to everyone taking advantage of everyone else’s ideas. I hope this message spreads more & more as blogging grows into an even better thing!

  • Just found this blog on the etsy forums. Wow, Grace. Tons of great info here and more links I want to follow. I’m such a nube with social networking and really appreciate this kind of information. Thank you!

  • Grace, maybe you already answered this in the comments above…I tried to find it first, I promise! Is there a way to look up IP addresses through blogger too?

  • This is a belated “thank you” for this post. I just received my first negative comment, and it was, to be honest, a complete shock. I mean, before now, my sporadic postings and comments were all sunshine and rainbows. And this guys just came along and threw a big poo pile on it.

    I responded and addressed the commenter’s “concerns,” while trying to resist throwing the poo pile back (and mostly succeeded). I also remembered reading your post awhile back and re-read it this morning as a sort of pep talk.

    Thanks, Grace–I feel better, now!

    • laura

      congrats! i think of it as a blogger right of passage to deal with negative comments, so i promise this will only make you stronger ;)


  • Hi Grace, this may be a silly question!! I am an avid reader of design blogs, not a blogger. I regularly copy images for my own inspiration and appreciation of the beautiful and clever designs I see. Is that an issue in terms of copyright? I don’t reuse them in any way other than for my own personal viewing. Thanks!


  • Hi There,
    Thank you for this post, it has been VERY helpful and informative. I’ve read through almost all comments and your response so I apologize if my questions are redundant.

    I like, many of the others who posted questions am new to the blogging world and of course would like to follow proper etiquette. I have no intention of making money from my blog as it is just a personal site where I document various aspects of my life.

    I have 2 questions; 1) Your reference to recipes, does this include websites as well? If I find a recipe and make it and post pictures as I go through the cooking and baking process and link back to the site where I found the recipe, is this okay? 2) I understand the concept of linking images to credit original source and artist. So for example, I found an image on a particular blog whom credited the artist. I posted this image to my blog, linking the blogger’s site as well as the artist. Is this sufficient or should I be contacting both the blog I found the image on as well as the artist?

    Again, I am new to the blogging world so I apologize if my questions should be common sense, I just don’t want to step on any toes!!! (I also realize I am asking this a few weeks after your initial post but I just came across it and had to ask!)


    • hi angelique

      like images, any work (including a recipe) that’s created by someone should be credited and linked back. when it comes to recipes, if that recipe is copyrighted by someone (from a book, from the food network, etc) it’s safer to ask first. especially when it’s been published in print- publishing houses are very vigilant about tracking down people that print FULL recipes. it’s one thing to print the full recipe and another do to a post with your pictures of your version. so i’d ask first if it’s been in print to get written permission. if it’s a blogger’s site i’d email as well- but i’d be especially careful with someone whose work has been published in print- because the pub house that owns the rights typically is careful about protecting that.


  • Thanks for the great article. I still feel confused though. I saw that you said pinterest doesn’t count because it’s not a blog, but what about tumblr. I recently move my blog there and everything comes with a reblog button. People just seem to reblog like crazy, is that not ok? My blog is mostly my own photos, but so many tumblr pages are just people reblogging their favorite everything.

    • christina

      i don’t think i said pinterest doesn’t count. “reblog” isn’t the same thing as crediting. reblogging on pinterest and tumblr only credits the pinterest or tumblr page you last found it on- far from the original source.


  • Thank you, thank you for this posting. I have been searching all day for information on retail online photo usage.
    I just started my blog and being a visual designer, I know what photo usage and restrictions can mean in terms of legal ramifications. What I couldn’t find was weather I COULD use images from a site like Crate and Barrel, etc. Now I know that I can. Again, great article, great blog, always insightful and thought provoking!

  • Hi Grace, thank you for this very insightful post. I first came across it in January when I was in my second month of active blogging. I have to admit that although I read it with interest, it didn’t really strike a cord. At the time, I was using many images in my posts and crediting and linking to their original sources wherever possible. While I understood the concept of copyright, as a new blogger I followed the crowd and did what so many other people are doing.

    Then I discovered Pinterest and Tumblr. Wow, what wonderful photos! I repinned and reblogged with great enthusiasm, often spending much time tracing sources – not always successfully of course. While I love Pinterest and Tumblr, I got fed up with all the non-credited (or wrongly credited) postings.

    In the past month, I’ve tried to use only images for which I’ve obtained permission or which are free to use/repost. My blogging ethic has changed and I’m happy with how I’m now posting although I can’t write about everything I would like (no response to requests for instance). There are bonuses of course, I have some great interviews and I never feel conflicted about using others’ works when I have their permission. But there are still images and content I use that fall into the fuzzy category. Was it OK for me to use magazine covers I found on Google Books while writing a post about Google Books? What about Flickr mosaics (Flickr allows you to share photos from someone’s photostream by email or in a blog post)? And YouTube videos that are not posted by their creators? Maybe I’m wrong but it isn’t always clearly black and white.

    I linked to your post today in one I wrote about copyright and plagiarism. Thanks again, it’s a great summary and reminder. I never knew until I read this this that it was OK to use images from retail sites!

    best wishes,

  • I really appreciate all these wonderful notes – including your follow-up in the comments. It’s been of great help! I attended the 2009 (Food) Blogher conference and learned a lot, but only now am I starting two different blogs. Your comments helped me in areas I’d forgotten (or never learned).

    My question is about the comments section. Do you have tips on addressing remarks by family or friends that are off topic? Most of mine are pretty tactful, but a few would/will likely say things like, “I heard you got a new car – when can I see it?” Or, “Great post. That reminds me of when you were little and….” This is a valid concern ’cause it’s already happening on my Facebook page from time to time — off topic comments posted under several ‘appropriate’ comments. I’m nervous about these loved ones – I would love their support and don’t want to offend them by deleting their unrelated or very personal posts. Any tips? Or, do I just need to have a candid conversation with these folks when it happens (and it will).

    • hi bunnie

      i would suggest a personal conversation with those people that reminds them that you love and appreciate their feedback, but would prefer if they left highly personal comments to email or phone calls ;)


  • Dear Grace,
    At this point I’m sure its all been said – but once again, thank you so much for taking the time to put this post together and for being so hands on with the discussion in the comments section.
    I have just started blogging (not publicizing at all as of yet till I know I have my ducks in a row and know how to do things properly), outside of some half-hearted attempts at personal blogs earlier, and have been trying to ensure I do things right. It all sounds so very intimidating when you’re trying to learn the ropes. Searching for ‘blogging ethics and etiquette’ is what got me to this post (though I have been loving your work for a while now). Based on what I’ve read here today – (and will reread again with a magnifying glass and fine-tooth comb so I don’t miss a single tip), I’ll be going over the handful of posts I do have up in detail and ensure its all up to standard. Thank you so much for your efforts, you are a such a wonder for all you do!

  • Thank you thank you thank you and hopefully I can attend the summit next year :). I also learned a lot from this post just by reading comments and responses. Thanks to all of you for sharing your experiences and opinions. …I’m very new to blogging and this by far, has been the most helpful when it comes to etiquette, commenting, etc.

  • As a designer I, too, have billions of images dragged off the Internet and into folders. If I ever need to know the source of them, I right click the images > show info > and there I can see the source (copy and paste in the browser). That’s how it works on my iMac, anyway.

    This obviously doesn’t work for screen shots :)

    Hope someone can use this.

  • I enjoy what you guys are up too. This type of clever work
    and coverage! Keep up the very good works guys I’ve you guys to our blogroll.

  • Clearly this is a topic that has worried a lot of us! Another thank you from me for providing such a useful overview of the copyright and etiquette/ethics area of blogging. I’m new to it too and trying to find such information yourself can be very time consuming.

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