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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  • Wow. This is exactly what I needed to read today– I’ve been struggling with a lot of negative comments coming to a fairly new blog, and its disheartening to think that they might actually be people I know (since my blog is only a month old, and a large percentage of readers are my friends and acquaintances.)

    My question is– when you moderate, do you give any warning to the commenter? Or is your commenting policy the only thing they need to see? I never know whether to email, or comment below, or above– it feels like a courtesy, which I’m not sure if I should extend to a nasty commenter.

    • Jeannie

      It depends, if it’s a clear violation of the policy than I don’t email them- if it’s murkier I email them to talk.


    • jeannie

      one quick addition- i mentioned this at the panel and forgot to add- often the really jerk people are not so bad when you email them. i’d say 70% of the ones i email immediately apologize for getting out of hand and then you neutralize someone from doing that again. only a small percentage don’t write back or start something. so i’d advise emailing if you have the time- it shows your commenters you care about what’s being said and making sure everyone is heard in a way that doesn’t make other commenters feel unsafe to comment.


  • This is really useful info Grace, seeing as I’m in London and couldn’t make the sumit it is great to get this digested read, thank you!

  • What about fair use? Copying images to comment on them, for example? To be more specific, I posted an entry on a fashion trend and copied images from another site to illustrate my opinion. Have I violated copyright?

    • Marina

      Was the image an original photo? Or a press photo? It depends- but as a rule I’d never pull an image from someone else’s site without permission.

      You never know- they could be using that image without permission too and you don’t want to piggyback on that.


  • Grace-thanks for taking the time to write this all down…i wish everyone did this since we were all unable to attend all alt sessions. Your topic is very important and thanks for giving us the benefit of our hard-earned experience…Tina said how generous you had been to her when she was getting started and that’s all I need to hear to respect a person! Great job!

  • Great article! I’m genuinely excited for the next 2. I’m not sure I needed to know about the “tools”, LOL. The self-diagnosed OCD in me, could certainly have a hayday with them. Good job Grace. ~ karen

    • karen

      ha, that’s the downfall of tineye and tynt. it can lead to major freakouts. but it’s better to just use them sparingly and stick to approaching only the people who are directly profiting off your work- and people doing that maliciously (scraper sites, etc). personal bloggers rarely mean to do anything bad and usually remove things when you ask.


  • I’m sad we didn’t meet at Alt. This is a great recap, and I will have to bookmark it so I can send it along to new bloggers when they ask for good advice. :) Hope we meet next time!

  • This is great. When I first started blogging I panicked about using any images at all. I agree about using stock promotional images, but even huge retail websites have very scary-sounding statements in their copyright section. I went so far as to call a huge furniture company’s legal department and they were very confused and not at all concerned. When your blog is small and you generate no income from it, it’s likely not worth the huge company’s time…but I’m only speaking on my opinion, and only about stock images.

    Thankfully in my blog 99% of images I even want to use are promotional or my own personal images, but if there’s ever a person’s name attached I credit that and the site source. My personal belief is to err a bit on the side of over-crediting. You can still make it look unobtrusive on your blog. I like to use the most descriptive term possible while still being brief. For example, Etsy is probably my main source. When linking, I don’t say “click here” or “Etsy”, I say the name of the item and usually the seller’s name. This way the person responsible for the creation is apparent on my site and you don’t have to click out to know their name. This also helps with search engines looking for their work, etc. After all, they are the ones giving me something to blog about!
    Hope that makes sense :)

  • Hi Grace!

    Thanks so much for posting this and leading the way into stronger and more interesting content on the web.

    I agree with the sentiment regarding magazines, and the surprise that more have not cracked down on the copyright infringement yet, so I’m glad to hear the photographers are standing up for themselves. Also, I am often shocked to see the same image manipulated on the web (adding text, etc) on various sites, and I can pretty much guarantee the photographer did not grant them permission (that is if they even got credit). And finally, just by writing a photo credit that says “courtesy of the New York Times” does not mean that they gave you permission – it means that although you were kind enough to cite the source, you still took it from that source without permission – so be aware of word choice. My other pet-peeve these days is when bloggers just hyper link the word “via.” Bloggers should not be afraid to give credit where credit is due.

    Here’s to more original content!


  • As if I needed one more reason to be completely disheartened that I missed your panel…

    This is so brilliant, Grace. Kudos to all three of you for having such an important, transparent conversation.

    Best, Liz
    http://… (ha)

  • Thank you so much for sharing these great notes! I’m a very new blogger (in week one of my posts) and image crediting/permissions has been a huge question I’ve had — great to have some guidance from experienced bloggers. Looking forward to reading the next parts!

  • Thank you so much for this post. It answered many of the burning questions I had about blogging. I couldn’t seem to find any good sources of information on to follow established practices and this is just what I needed to read.

    Your site is not only an inspiration and a daily read for me, but also a blessing! Thanks, Grace and the whole D*S crew!

    • Hi everyone,

      I just wanted to say thank you for all the kind comments and nice emails I’ve received since this went up. I’m happy to answer any questions you have and look forward to everyone’s input on these ideas and the ideas in next week’s posts.

      Also, I want to thank my amazing blog panel-mates Joy (ohjoy.blogs.com) and Emily (oncewed.com) for their partnership in our panel work. This was a team effort to the highest degree and I really respect and appreciate their insight, help and experience with these topics.


  • Thank you so much for sharing with us your experience in the summit and the summaries of the panels you attended. Being so far away (Buenos Aires) it is pretty much impossible to attend these events right now. I really appreciate your input.

  • Thanks Grace for all the great info! Thanks for all your work putting this together. It has been really interesting to see how blogging has developed over these years.

  • Thanks for posting this! I am new to design blogging, and am always interested in learning as much as I can about it. And this was very helpful. I actually do have a question which is about crediting on Twitter. I still don’t fully feel comfortable with Twitter but will tweet photos from flickr a lot. In my tweet, do I have to credit where I found the photo, or is it ok since there is a direct link to it? And since it is Twitter, I am not reusing the photo, just linking or sharing it. I get blogging and can do blogging, but for some reason the whole Twitter world to me makes me very nervous, and I think a lot of that has to do with how disorganized I find the site.

    • hi dani!

      are you tweeting a link to someone’s flickr account? if so, you’re fine. because you’re not reproducing that image in your twitter feed- you’re leading right to the source, which is perfect. if you’re re-directing them to YOUR flickr feed where you’ve posted someone else’s photo that’s definitely not the best thing to do.


  • As someone who is just getting into the blogging world, this was really helpful. Thanks for making lessons out of your experiences! ~ab

  • BIG thank you. This is an amazing recap from the conference. What a great way to show readers the RIGHT way to share and build a respectful online community. I thought this panel also related best to Paul D. Miller’s conversation about stealing and sampling in music as it relates to art and design sharing online. Both allowed me to feel a little more confident in sharing my own and others’ work while keeping the online bandits at bay! Thank you for such positive influence in this wonderful but mind-boggling-online abyss! xo

  • Thanks for posting this Grace! I can’t wait to read parts 1 & 2. Super useful info. I always put a link credit (or two) but I haven’t gone as far to email the person that I’m pulling images from for permission. I’ll make sure to do that now.

  • {OOPS. Redo!} BIG thank you. This is an amazing recap from the conference. What a great way to show readers the RIGHT way to share and build a respectful online community. I thought this panel also related best to Paul D. Miller’s conversation about stealing and sampling in music as it relates to art and design sharing online. Both allowed me to feel a little more confident in sharing my own and others’ work while keeping the online bandits at bay! Thank you for such positive influence in this wonderful but mind-boggling-online abyss! xo

  • What a great write up!

    I think it’s good to note, too, that not only should you credit the image (i.e. look at this cute print from etsy seller so and so) you should also credit the source if you didn’t find it yourself on etsy (i.e. “via design*sponge” or “Grace just posted about so and so’s work the other day and I love it so much”). I think it’s good to do this even when you’re not posting the same thing (let’s say someone posted about a print, and you found a different one to feature).

    I’ve been in the “I don’t know where I found this” boat and when that happens I’ll say so right in the post. If someone comments with the source, I can go back and properly credit the post. Now when I bookmark a link I add a little “via so and so” at the end of the bookmark or go and bookmark the original blog post instead of the person’s work directly.

    Also, if you find that someone just posted the same content as you, it’s sometimes easy to just comment with a “I just posted about this the other day – I love it!”

    (Jeepers, talk about writing the novel! Sorry!)

  • I’m so glad to see this topic discussed here! I’ve had several of my images used without permission before (and copyright marks cropped!), so I absolutely agree with your advice. I think what some bloggers don’t realize is that creating images and preparing them for online takes a lot of time and efforts. At least that’s how it is with me, so it really sucks to see my images presented in a way I did not intend them. And I absolutely agree with Prêt à Voyager who said that crediting an image with only “via” is not enough. If you’re going to run a blog with other people’s images, you should at least take the time to type the name of the image creator, especially if you’re going to have some ads on the side!

  • These are wonderful tips. I think an additional way to help curb and discourage copying would be to let other bloggers know when they are being copied. If I see something published bya site which claims it as their own, yet I know it was done my someone else I will certainly let the original owner know.

    • stacy

      agreed- i’ve really appreciated when readers reach out to let us know things like this. that’s how i found a jerk company that ripped off our website design (logo and all) and sold it as a template online. i don’t do it a lot, but i always do that for others when it’s something that is really bad. sometimes it can just be frustrating to hear the more nit-picky copying, but the bigger stuff is definitely important and helpful to know. :)


  • Good point, Libby, about crediting not only the source of an item but the source of your idea/inspiration as well!

    Also, apparently I’m on a novel-writing kick today too but here’s a note about comments from the perspective of a newer blogger: I moderate comments not primarily in an attempt to stifle free speech or people’s opinions, but because I’m paranoid about the spam and weird stuff out there! WordPress has a great spam filter, but I keep thinking what if someone writes something craaaazy while I’m not at my computer? So that’s primarily why I want to see before I publish.

  • Thank you Grace! I have been working on a series for OMHG on internet ethics-this is one of the most concise articles I have come across & I will certainly be linking (but not copying!). I am always totally baffled by how many unethical actions people take on the internet because they think they are protected by the idea of “anonymity”. Negative comments are a great example of how people say things online they would never in good conscience say in person. I have learned that the blogging community is actually quite small and SO welcoming. Why would anyone alienate potential friends?!
    Re: crediting I love how Mayi Carles of Heartmade contacts every single person/business she features with thanks & praise as well as crediting them fully.
    I think a good rule of thumb when you are doing anything-on or off the internet-is to ask yourself: am I contributing to this community in a positive way & building a relationship? That is my motivation when I leave a comment or share a link/image. I want the other person to feel happy when they read my comment or see that I have shared their work. Then I have opened the door to connecting in the future & shown that I am respectful of the other persons time & effort.

  • Great advice Grace! I’ve found that even if it says on someone’s Flickr stream, blog, etc… that their images are copyrighted and cannot be used, most people are willing to give you permission, if you just ask nicely and give them credit and a link… I’ve asked many times and only had one person turn me down.

    • eva

      that’s a great point. most people really are ok if you just ask permission first. i’ve only been turned down a few times, and in both cases i paid a small licensing fee to run the image because it was so perfect.


  • What a wonderful resource you have provided. I am a blog lover (yours has been on my ‘favorites’ list for a long time now). I am about to launch my own in the coming months but the more I learn, the scarier it becomes. It’s such a comfort to read your informative post and to hear all the things you inspiring and seasoned bloggers out there are talking about! I look forward to future installments. Thank you!

  • Just wanted to highlight your point that having original content on your blog is the best way to go! I find that the only blogs I read regularly our the ones with tons of original content and photos. There are only a couple of blogs I read that re-cap others content.

  • I love your suggestion of checking out the IP address to see past comments when a negative note pops up.

    I definitely take criticism more seriously from readers who actually care about the outcome (for example, frequent commenters), not just someone who needs an outlet for a bad day and wants to be nasty.

  • Grace, thank you for this exceptional, insightful article!

    Clearly it differs from source to source, but do you have a general rule of thumb when it comes to determining who to ask for permission re: photos and content? And have you experienced fast response times?

    Thanks + Cheers!

    • hi mandy!

      for images, i email the source where i found it and ask if it’s theirs, and if is IS, i ask for permission. but if it’s NOT theirs, i ask for their original source and try to credit as many possible. ie: “Found via Xblog, originally from Xblog” or something.

      but honestly, i avoid that stickiness as much as possible. once you’ve dealt with the legal ramifications of using an image that isn’t yours (we made an honest mistake and nearly paid a very hefty price- yikes) it’s enough to scare you off other people’s images, permission or not, for a while.

      re: wait times, they really vary. i find most personal bloggers email back quickly. magazines, photogs, etc may take a while. but that’s usually the point where i refer back to “original content” as the easiest way to avoid waiting for someone else to give you permission to run something.


    • hi mandy

      i mentioned that rule of thumb in the post :) i email whenever it’s from a personal blog or someone that’s not a retail site or press release source. but we try to run 85% original content so frankly i try to avoid that issue by just focusing on fewer posts and more original content.

      but i would suggest that you email everyone pretty much- it never hurts to ask.


  • Thanks for taking time to write the great summary! Very useful and informative -specially for a newbie blogger like me :)

    Mun fun and laughter characterize your evening :D

  • Wowie wow wow! Thanks a million for this. As a newer blogger, I feel like this is a treasure trove of info that I’ll come back to again and again. I feel like it’s so important in the blog world to contribute to the community of trust and mutual respect that has been established. This sure helps. :)

  • I can’t thank you enough for writing this article and I am saving it to my desktop. When I first started my blog, I didn’t take it very seriously, and I never put a copyright/watermark on my photographs. I was pretty naive about people stealing content. I’ve only been at this for a year and a half, but now I find my lifted photos everywhere, and I’m slowly going back through and watermarking them. I only got serious about my work when I was approached by publishers, and realized that my articles and photos had value.
    I learned the hard way that not everyone knows and respects copyright law online.
    And a big thank you for those photo tracking links. I will keep them bookmarked and pass them on.
    The US copyright office online really clarifies the fair use doctrine, and lets you know that while you are allowed to use images and parts of text if you are critiquing or discussing, that otherwise it’s theft of intellectual property.
    Thank you so much for tackling the tough topics. I always visit this site when I have a bit of free time, and I always learn something new.

  • Ah! Thank you so much for this, especially mentioning Pinterest. It drives me insane when an image on Pinterest just links to an image on Tumber and the re-Tumbling effect takes place and I can never find the original source. In that case, i simply WILL NOT re-pin that image, as much as I would like to. It’s just not fair.

    Great write-up! I’ll definitely would like to attend Alt Summit next year!

  • Wow, thank you so much for putting the time and effort into this post. The copyrighting/copying section was really informative. I’m a small (really, teeny-tiny) personal blogger but I’ve used others images before. While I almost always link ( I have fallen into the folders with forgotton sources dilemma), I don’t have express permission and I never thought it was a big deal until now. This was really eye-opening that even small bloggers need to be responsible bloggers.

    Also, sidenote to Cara above me, yes, this post totally reiterates that I, and really all of us, should have primarily original content! Seriously, this post changed my whole blogging perspective.

    • judi

      i’m so glad that this post was helpful- people used to always yell at me for saying the same thing (“original content is always a good thing”) and i’m so happy to see that people are starting to come around to the idea. i’ve found that our audience and my blogging colleagues always respond more strongly to original content than re-posted material. it gives people a chance to get to know YOU and not just your thoughts on someone else’s content.


  • Thanks so much Grace. This is really helpful. After reading it I signed up for an Evernote account – it took about a minute. Now I just have to figure out how to use it!

  • Thanks for the great re-cap to your panel at Alt! It was so great to hear you speak and thanks for all helpful info. Hope to meet you next year!
    Cariann (huge design sponge fan)

  • Thanks so much for the information, especially TinEye. I just informed a co-worker about the site, and she was already able to find someone ripping a photo (as well as content) directly off of her blog.

  • Thanks for the great information on blog etiquette behavior.

    And an even bigger thanks for the link to Evernote! What a perfect tool for keeping internet information organized and readily accessible. I’ve struggled forever on trying to keep inspirations and their sources locatable. This makes the process SO simple.


  • I loved this post it was so informative but not overwhelming. I am starting a small flower business and I don’t always think of all the little details about my blog. I was excited to learn about tynt but sad that it doesnt work with normal wordpress blogs.

  • Wow, what a perfect post. As someone whose personal blog isn’t necessarily a huge thing, it’s always a nice reminder about the ethical side of the web/information world we live in and rules for blogging on any level. I love your site and the inspiration it brings everyday. Cheers, from one designer to another.


  • Just to comment about commenting- I believe this is my first comment on Design Sponge- I do sometimes feel that the comments are only for people who have blogs on design. For those of us who just love looking at design blogs for fun and inspiration, the comments section can seem scary. If I want to leave a comment that says- “I’m not a big fan of karate chopped throw pillows” I’m afraid it might be the thing to do right now. What do I know?

    I loved the recent post by Knack about lacquering. I had some questions before I would use the technique myself but was unsure if a comment would lead to an answer. I understand not wanting to leave e-mail as a possible contact as well as the whole “knowledge ain’t free” thing, but that can be a limitation of do-it-yourself posts.

    Anyway sorry to ramble. I LOVE this site and the design ideas. Thanks for all your hard work- thats really what a lot of us non-commenting designer wannabes would like to say.

    • hi andrea!

      thanks for your comment- just so i understand a bit better (so i can help or change things if necessary)- what did you mean by “knowledge aint free” point? barb answers as many of the comments as possible (as do all our diy editors and our senior diy editor kate) so please don’t be afraid to leave a question. if you left one that was un-answered just shoot me an email at designsponge at gmail dot com and i’ll make sure it gets answered ;)


  • Great article. Thank you for writing it! Copyscape.com is a site that I found where you enter your blog/website’s URL and it scans the internet for copies. It seems to work well.

  • I have a small personal blog, and on Fridays I post about my favorite Internet finds and inspiration from the week. I include 5-7 credited/linked photos. One week, I made an attempt to contact each image owner in advance for permission. It ended up being fairly time-consuming to draft the emails, and it took 3-4 days to get responses from some of the people. Because my blog is a hobby, and I already have a full-time job that keeps me plenty busy, I decided to not do this again. I thought that since I only write about things I love to recommend to my readers to follow/buy/whatever, it would be unlikely that anyone would be upset about the coverage. But I like your points here, and I’m thinking I should maybe try to do this again?

  • Fascinating stuff, Grace. I wished I could have heard your panel!

    Also love seeing people get excited about producing original content. It’s really the only way to set yourself apart in a big sea of blogs.

  • I don’t know if this will be useful to anyone else, but I discovered a great free stock photography resource years ago when I was in design school in college and broke: http://www.sxc.hu/

    I’m hyper aware of copyright issues (I was a journalism/media design major in college and even had to take a course in media law. It’s a scary litigious world out there.) This website saved my skin in school and now as a blogger. Many of the photographers simply request you link back to them and notify them of your use. Some are more stringent–you just have to ask and credit them accordingly. This is where I currently get most images that aren’t my own.

    Granted, they aren’t necessarily cute shots of crafts or art or design elements and you do have to wade through some not-so-great images, but they do have a very wide selection of everything from patterns to lifestyle shots. I am a huge fan. (And so far, they’ve come in very useful for illustrating how-to and home cleaning or organizational articles I post that I may not have a personal example to share.)

    This post has answered a lot of questions I had about fair use and crediting (as well as how long it takes to hear back if you ask permission–that always worries me, so I tend to just make my own images), but the retail image use is still a question mark for me.

    I recently created a “I’m thinking of buying one of these” post and created an image in Photoshop from 3 retailers, then credited them for each item, with a link to the item page. I can’t imagine they’d be mad about new possible sales, but I still wonder about the use of those photos …

    • andrea

      thanks for the tip- i use veer.com and other stock image sites every now and then (for city guide photos when julia isn’t free to do an illustration) and they can be a BIG help.


  • This is such a wonderful post and a full course of food for thought! Thank you so much for sharing your insight – and links – with us and I cannot wait for the second portion of this.

    There are a lot of comments already posted and didn’t see this yet (I don’t think), but have you heard anything or know anyone personally who uses myfreecopyright.com?

    • hi evita

      i’m not familiar with that site, but i’ll look into it. but i’m not sure how that works. to officially file a copyright for something you have to pay a fee with the government, so i’m not sure what they’re doing here if they don’t at least charge that government fee…


  • Its so nice to see all this information formalized. A lot of it was things I’ve felt in my gut, but its nice to have a sort of primer on commenting and reacting to comments from others. I’ve seen some really nasty comments left on blogs lately and it seems like people are commenting too much to get noticed and not enough because they appreciate the content.

  • Great post!

    In regards to images it’s always a sticky sitiuation. If a magazine (or for that matter an interior designer or product designer) posts images online it doesn’t mean they necessarily own them. Often the rights are still with the photographer and the mag/designer has negotiated their own online usage for the shots.

    It’s just good manners to do your best to ask permission, to credit correctly and link back where possible.

  • I am fairly new to the blog world and have made a few mistakes along the way I am sure. I always try to link whenever I can to the source, but what if I find an interior design image from another blog that doesn’t list the source??? I know of a few blogs that just say something like I love this wall color, but they don’t say who designed the space. I like the image, but don’t feel comfortable citing the blog I got it from because they don’t cite the true owner. When I first started out, I had images saved with no source. Now however whatever I copy I make sure I cite the designer or magazine or website. What would you do with images you like, but no info. as to who designed the space??? Thanks so much for helping me navigate the blogosphere…I truly appreciate all of the help I can get!

  • Thank you SO much for this! Particularly for the evernote tool! I just started blogging, but have been a designer for 5+ years and see my interior renderings all over the place! Sheesh, I’ve been pretty naive to the subject, and to some degree more flattered than upset about other people yoinking my work, but being a blogger myself now, I realize others wouldn’t always have the same sentiments…so its a good thing, I’m inspired to create more original content and just not have to deal with all the copyright issues at all…more interesting and challenging that way! Thanks again and looking forward to reading more stickyness!

  • Thanks so much for taking the time to share this information. I have an art blog and sometimes like to feature artists like N.C. Wyeth, Norman Rockwell etc. I have been guilty of taking the images from google images. When it’s common material like a well known painting by a deceased artists could I still get in trouble? Thanks!

  • grace, this has been incredibly helpful. i posted a photo from another site, and the photographer found it almost right away. he was incredibly kind about it and didn’t ask me to remove it, but it scared me enough that i’ve only posted original content since.

  • My heart sunk a little when I read the part about PR folks “stupidly” emailing many bloggers at once. As an artist who has been thrilled at being featured on d*s in the past, I do occasionally send off an email to you when I think something new I am doing might be particularly interesting to your readers. I am thoughtful about what I submit but when I do I am often also send an email to a few other design blogs that have featured my work in the past as well. I had no idea this was rude (or stupid). What would be the proper etiquette? Do I submit to one and if I don’t get a response in a certain amount of time I can politely move on to another? I am horrified that I may have burned bridges/ stepped on toes and did not know. Please provide some guidance for us who are trying to respectfully self-promote.

  • Thank you Grace and the panel. I had not heard of TinEye before and I just installed it – what an amazing tool! I really found this article helpful and I see many other bloggers did too. Thank you all for sharing your insights!

  • Thank you so much for this post!!! I’m new to the blogging world, and not quite sure how it works yet. I thought about attaching my website etc in comments because I thought that’s what most people do, but never did because I felt weird about it. Now that I have read this, I know I was feeling the right thing! Thanks so much again!

    http://www.oda……just kidding

  • Thank you for sharing your notes from your panel. I really do think I am going to return to the US for Altitude next year.

    I have a fairly new blog but I meticulously plan my posts so that I have time to get the permissions I need. Every image on my blog is credited – perhaps over credited. After I post, I also email the subject/photographer/artist to let them know the post is up and to ask if they are OK with the credit.

    I’ve made some wonderful relationships (online and off) by doing the above. I do think people appreciate bloggers who go above and beyond like this.

  • Wasn’t at the ALT and I really appreciate this post. It makes clear some things which I’ve always felt unsure about. It’s a great summary!

  • hi again, grace! i have a couple of probably dumb questions. should you ask permission to add a blog to your blogroll or otherwise provide a link to someone else’s content? and, when taking pictures of art in your own home, should you credit the artist?

    • hi misa!

      nope, you don’t need permission to add a blog to your blogroll. but people generally enjoy hearing that they’ve been added if you want to reach out and say hi.

      you don’t HAVE to credit artwork in your home because it’s your picture, but it’s definitely nice to do that so people can know who did the work and support them if they’re interested in the work.

      grace :)

  • Wow! Great post. I was glued to it until the end. Can’t wait for the next part.
    One of my readers asked me to create a tutorial of a fabric flower she found online. Do I not create the tutorial because it is inspired by someone else? Do I create the tutorial but give credit to the location of the inspiration? Or do I create the tutorial with no mention of the place of inspiration? P.S. I would be using MY pictures and MY tutorial. Not someone else’s pictures or tutorial. I have a hunch as to what I should do, but would like to hear your advice. Thanks!

    • sara

      i’m pretty sure you’re not violating someone’s copyright if the pattern is at least 30% different than the original. but if you’re teaching someone how to make a copy of someone else’s original work and they sell it for profit, they could get in trouble and there’s a chance you could get dragged into that. my gut instinct is to say: make a VERSION of that, or something inspired by that, but not a direct copy.


  • hi grace!

    just wanted to say thanks for this post. it’s really helpful when thinking about posts. for the most part, i use all of my own images but if i do use something else, i’ll be sure to ask for permission!

    oh, i also updated my username for comments. that’s a great tip!

  • See? This is why I love Design Sponge!

    Thank you so much for this amazing information! I’m pretty new to the blogging world and, to be honest, have never emailed anyone for permission to use a photo but certainly will from now on.

    On my end of things, I try to post a lot of original photography on my blog (mostly photos taken specifically for the blog) and never considered watermarking them– is that something I should get into the habit of doing?

    Thanks again for the fabulous tips! It really helped me put a perspective on things, especially now that I’m taking this whole blogging thing more seriously. :)

    • lissette

      thanks! watermarks are a sticky topic. i personally think it distracts from the photo, but if you’re concerned that your work will be used for profit (or have had that issue before) it could be worth doing (i know a few bloggers that choose to do that). that said, aesthetically they totally distract for me. if you use tineye.com and keep an eye on where your content is (and make your copyright clearly visible in your blog’s top right or left columns) you have a good chance that you’ll never have to worry about a legal battle involving watermarks, etc ;)


  • I’m extremely graceful for your coverage on Alt Summit, especially on commenting. I am still new to blogging and I have often wondered how to handle linking to my site within the comment itself. Thanks for sharing the read on it from the view of other bloggers.

  • Hi, I found this article very helpful as I’m thinking about starting a blog, prob home reno projects etc as I’m not a professionl designer. If it’s not a stupid question, what counts as written permission? An email from original source? Or something more official? Thanks :)

  • Thank you so much for getting back to me and for all your input! It is very generous of you to share all your knowledge

  • Nicely put, very articulate. About the negative comments, I feel some kind of invisible pressure to be nice on the internet and not express myself. So when I come acroos something I don’t like, I usually don’t comment. sometimes, however, I do express my disagreement with some trends, for example, to paint the furniture in white, to get this shabby chic look, because most often for me it’s a waste of the wood and its texture and color. I have my doubts whether to put this in a comment because I try to be polite, but if all other comments are glorfiying precisely this obsession with the white painting, it’s kind of pointless. what to you think, please? T0 go with the crowd or simply not to comment?

    • LZ

      I think you should always express disagreement, etc if you feel strongly about it. However, I personally feel that the way in which you express that is usually what bothers people. If you’re able to disagree, complain or voice dislike while still being constructive and mature, then for me, that’s all I need to see. But if you let it escalate to a personal attack or something that is down right cruel, I would end up emailing you to explain why I wouldn’t run that comment. So my bottom line would be: don’t feel you need to hold back. If you feel any pressure at all, just use that as a reminder to keep all (good and bad) comments mature and constructive.


  • What a fantastic article. Thank you.

    “Creative Commons”,”a non-profit that offers an alternative to full copyright,” can be searched on Flickr.

    Some artists have licensed their images with CC and they can be used with derivative works, non-commercial works, and other. http://www.flickr.com/creativecommons/

  • It was SUCH a great panel. Thanks for making it so content heavy. I’m always looking for ways to protect myself, but at the same time stay fresh. Great to speak with you again this year!

  • Thank you so much. As a new blogger, I find this to be the most invaluable, insightful information I’ve read yet and information that I can apply immediately, but also refer to in future. You should really write a book! I’d buy it! x

  • Fantastic post. We’re still a young blog so thankfully we haven’t had to deal with any negative comments.

    My question is about copyright in store. I see plenty of blogs that take photos of products in actual stores (Target, IKEA, Boutiques) and I often wonder if they have permission to do that.

    We always err on the side of caution and any shop we go into we’ll ask the owner/manager if we can take photos, explain what our blog is and leave a business card. We’ve only had one place turn us down but then email us asking if we’d like to come back another day to take some photos.
    I’m just wondering if others do this too?

    • Hi Lisa!

      That’s a tough one- I’ve had this issue because sometimes you try to do the right thing and ask first and then they say No- but then you see another blogger run images because they ran in and shot images without asking. My bottom line would be: always ask.

      If you see images from the shop somewhere else, that’s a good excuse to politely email the store owner to remind them that they “allowed” images for another site, so could they now please allow yours?

      Also, I find it’s helpful to have a business card and printout of your site’s page if you really want to push for pictures in-store. That way they can see you’re not the competition trying to photograph displays, logos, products, etc for competitive research.

      So when in doubt, ask. If they say no and you see their stores on other sites, just ask again and remind them of those other sites. If that fails, contact the store’s PR department and see if they can give you permission- they almost always say yes because they know that online press is valuable.

      Good luck!

  • Thanks for this. It is really helpful. MY question is, if you talk about someone on your blog – should you tell them as a courtesy or not bother because it may sound like self promotion? I mean just links to cool posts things like that.

    • Hi Kat!

      I know there are lots of blogs that take the time to tell people a post about them/their work is coming or has happened- I think it’s a really nice thing to do if you have the time. It’s not required, but I think it’s a really nice courtesy. I’d just be careful with the wording or phrasing so it doesn’t sound like you’re telling them they should or have to write about the post on their site, etc. It drives me nuts when people do that. If you want to write about someone or something, it should be because you like it- not because you’re expecting a link back. But it doesn’t sound like that’s what you’re looking for, so I’m sure it’s a-ok. I’d just phrase it as a “I’m a huge fan of your work…so here’s a link to the post I wrote about your new collection. Just wanted to pass it along, keep up the great work” sort of thing and you’ll be fine :)


  • 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.

  • Thank you for sharing all of this information, Grace.

    I use original content on my own blog-and I have found that I enjoy taking the photos that I use.

    When someone emails me to ask permission to use a photo the very first line I ALWAYS type back is:

    “Thank you for your email and thank you for taking the time to request permission to use my images.”

    Recently I contacted a designer to request permission to use a graphic that they had designed for a website. They responded with ” I appreciate you asking, you don’t know how common it is for people to just steal the images.”

    We ended up collaborating on a small image that I needed and for a $20 lifetime licensing fee I was able to obtain the image. It was a valuable experience for me and now I don’t feel “afraid to ask” and realize that it was more affordable than maybe I had originally thought.

    I know someone mentioned it is time consuming requesting permission, but if no one responds, in some cases perhaps it is time to gather another source. So much blog posting can be done ahead–you may just have to edit posts and pictures, but you’ll be doing it with a clearer conscience.

    I know the “they should just be happy I’m showing their work” frustrates me especially when a blog has revenue from advertisers.

    Permission should be gotten and credit should be given.

  • I don’t mean to demean the information you’ve given or the very true warning that we need to remember not to copy and paste text and/or images.

    But I personally would love for designsponge to have their logo IN the image. That way, if I do repost it on facebook or tumblr, then I can credit a great site easily, without having to remember. I would love to promote the site. There are a lot of sites that do this.

    • Tanya

      I understand your point, but for me, D*S is all about imagery and inspiration, I think a D*S logo splashed on that would be distracting from the point of our discussion: images. Also, we run into the issue of image ownership. Although most of our images are ours, a small portion are not: product images, images we license for use, etc. Those images aren’t allowed to be watermarked so I would feel odd having half of the day’s images being watermarked and not the others.

      I know it can be a pain, but cut and paste crediting really is a practice that’s best to leave behind. It’s just one extra step from dragging an image onto your desktop and then naming it “designsponge” or whatever site it’s from.

      grace :)

  • Hi Grace,

    Thanks for writing this post and taking the time to answer the subsequent comments.

    Blog Signatures – Hate these, and I never visit the site of these commenters. I prefer to visit the sites of commenter’s whose thoughts or handle are intriguing.

    Negative comments – never had to deal with these, but I occassionally get a know-it-all who corrects my writing…I don’t mind, my site is information based, so whatever is the best info for my readers I’ll take it. I just hate that they comment anonymously, so I’ve changed that. A commenter in this thread pointed out that she reads design blogs for fun, and occasionally doesn’t like something, but feels awkward to say it, in case she doesn’t know what she’s talking about. I have the same feeling, so I avoid giving my opinion at all.

    Crediting – I know you said to ask permission from every source, but this can be time consuming, and often times they never reply and I end up not posting the feature for months. When creating inspiration boards, that’s detrimental. Since my site is non-commercial, is that okay? Emily@OnceWed does inspiration boards…maybe she knows more about this?

    Can’t wait for the next two posts!

    • Asiya

      Thanks for all your thoughts- I hope you’ll continue to comment even if you have something “negative” to say, most bloggers really can handle that- and often comments that aren’t “I love it” really do lead to valuable discussions. So please feel free to leave them- I fully welcome them here, I really like when people are able to have a “real” discussion about something and disagree and see two fully thought out sides of the puzzle.

      As for crediting, I know it’s time consuming but sadly that’s really just part of your job as a blogger, full-time or not. The bottom line is, if you’re going to use content that belongs to someone else, you should give them the courtesy of asking for permission. Believe me, personal blogger or not, it can come back to haunt you in the form of a lawsuit. I had that very thing happen about a post from over 3 years ago and I really regret being too lazy to make sure someone was the real owner of an image. So when it doubt, save that post for later until you can hear from someone for permission. (If it literally takes months to hear from someone I’d suggest trying a few different avenues than waiting for one person- trying the photographer, a company’s PR agent, their marketing dept, a store owner, etc. If it’s an individual blogger’s own image you want to use and it’s taking forever sadly it’s a good sign to just move on and use all that extra time to write something based on your images and voice).


  • Grace,
    I’ve been looking forward to reading your ALT updates, since you had asked for input on what we’d like to hear on the topic of Ethics & Etiquette (prior to the conference). Like many of the new blogger comments, I appreciate the “education” you are giving us on copyright, crediting and permissions. I don’t know if this helps anyone, but even before my first post I emailed designers, photographers, shop owners, bloggers..for permission to use photos or content (having worked a couple years for a publishing company, I knew better to ask for permission), I’ve had some respond within a day and some not respond at all. But as you say, when in doubt, credit and link. I think the ettiquette should follow the Golden Rule – “do unto others as you’d expect them to do unto you…” Finding original content is definitely more challenging…but to me, I feel like I’m back in college – researching and learning. I’m looking forward to the next 2 installments, bc I’m still curious about the legalities of scanning from magazines (something I have not done and not quite sure how I feel about), and as another commenter, was curious about using the work of great artists (historical) and architects – how can we find out if an image is considered “public domain” – i.e. if you want to demonstrate a lesson and want to refer back to something learned back in an Art History class? (no need to respond if I’ll see these answers in your Part 2 & 3).

    • cecilia

      i’m so glad you enjoy the research and learning part of original content- i feel the exact same way. i love being challenged to do something new and different every day. i think readers really notice and appreciate that sort of hard work- and it definitely makes a blog stand out.

      i’m not a fan of scanned magazine pages because i used to work for them and i know the people who created those photos don’t appreciate their photos not being credited and being scanned as if they’re free content. legally, i don’t think it’s something people can technically do, but magazines seem to not care – at least not right now. but i know more and more photographers are starting to speak up- because even though those photos are owned by the print mags, they have limited rights, and online scanning is not one of them. so i always err on the side of caution and avoid scanning, unless i know the photog or contact them first to make sure it’s ok to run it online. my primary issue is that if people keep scanning in full, i don’t know if it really encourages people to buy and support the magazine. i keep seeing comments that say “these magazines are too expensive to buy- thanks for scanning them so we can still read it!”, which makes me sad. magazines are dying and we need to buy them or at least subscribe online to support them. scanning and repeating their content feels like contributing to their downfall to me. i think an image or two now and then done in a way that promotes the magazine and encourages people to read/subscribe is fine, but scanning in full spreads on a regular basis doesn’t feel like it’s helping the magazine to me.


  • I sure do appreciate you sharing this feedback from the ALT Summit. I would have loved to attend but maybe next year. I am in my first year of blogging and love it but didn’t know what I was getting in to. I just followed suit and used my blog in my signature on my comments (sometimes) and totally agree with you that it should not be a place to advertise yourself. If you add value with a comment and people like what you have to say than they will read your blog. I also feel like I give credit to every photo or idea that I use. Thanks again and I hope that Design*Sponge can make it to lavish in Atlanta later this year.

  • Thanks Grace! One of my greatest joys in life (pathetic as it may sound to some) is opening up my mailbox and finding a new issue of one of my subscriptions sitting inside! It’s a major buzz-kill for me to see the images on-line before I get to read my own magazine.

  • Great post. First time I saw my images somewhere else used without my permission, was a site that collects tons of free printable links and that’s all they do. It was kind of scary at first, but they do link back to me for the original document so I guess it’s all good. I do get a lot of links to my site from them. think it’s still kind of weird they put it up there without ever telling me but if I get links it’s all good I guess.

    99.5% of all the images on my site are my own. To me, that is what makes a site unique and worth following. I put all my photos on the blog as low res so they can’t be printed, etc.. but they can be put on the web anywhere.

    I have a question for you, not sure you can answer it here… I have offered free printables on my site in the hopes of creating traffic to an Etsy site (which is newborn and there’s not much there right now) offering printables for sale. Should I keep these printables free forever? Is there any downside to that?

    As always, I so appreciate that you share your advice… such a nice thing.


    • hi mary

      free downloadables are a mixed bag- great for traffic and goodwill with readers, but my main concern is that people can (and often will) use them for commercial purposes. so just make clear on the downloadables themselves that they are for personal use only. and i wouldn’t share SO many of them that people don’t have a reason to buy things from you, but rather just wait for the next freebie. i think it would be good to have them as an occasional treat for readers.

      we had this issue and it was the main reason we had to stop the d*s desktop calendars. artists created them free for us out of the good of their hearts and then jerks across the web stole them for commercial use, web use and passed them off as their own work for profit. i couldn’t afford to legally prosecute people on behalf of the artists so we had to stop until we find a better way to the protect the people letting us share their images. :(


  • Wow! What an amazing read – both the posts and the comments! I often stop to consider these things when commenting or posting photos, so it’s really helpful to know the DOs and DONTs.

    I always credit photos that are not mine and usually contact the owner after it has been posted with a “I love your item and featured it on my blog. I hope that’s OK”. I figure that implies that if it isn’t OK, they would let me know and I would take it down. I don’t see how this would be a problem for photos that are used promotionally (ie., on Etsy), but what about for other sites or blogs? Should I be contacting them in advance or is afterwards ok?

    On another note, regarding both commenting and crediting, I recently read a comment on someone else’s blog that pointed out that they had copied images without crediting the source. Later, I saw that this comment had been removed, but the pictures were still there and no credit in sight. It was a friend of mine whose pictures were stolen and I know for a fact that she had to jump through a few permissions hoops herself to take the photos in the first place. It seemed SO wrong!

    • erin

      sorry to hear about your friend’s photos getting used- that’s the primary reason some structure like this is good to have in place.

      if you’re using images from another blog and they’re ORIGINAL images i’d definitely say to email for permission first. but if they’re retail/press images on their site you can definitely do a link/credit and be ok with it. just don’t use all their images or all their text.

      also, if you see retail/press images you want you can also reach out to the PR people from that company to get new or different pictures- a great way to avoid repeating the exact same thing as other sites.
      grace :)

  • Very helpful, I love the Biz Ladies series! Just wondering, any chance it will be compiled into a book? I really think it should be!

  • As a New Blogger, I thank you SO much for the summary above.
    Question: What is the relationship between “Creative Commons” images and giving credit? I’m guessing credit is still due, but I wanted to know for sure. I am having a difficult time finding images that are not $150 each! Do you know the best way to obtain photographs for less?
    Aubrey (at The Thorne Room)

    P.S. I love your blog- it’s like receiving a bowl of M & Ms in my inbox each day. Thank you.

    • hi aubrey

      creative commons images aren’t any different from regular images- they’re just more clear and up front about what is required for use (payment, credit, written permission, etc). so the same rule applies- always credit and ask first if it’s not yours.

      in terms of cheaper images, i’d suggest a site like veer.com or other stock sources- i’ve never paid more than $5 for images there and it definitely beats $150 :)


  • Thanks! Do you think it would be terrible to edit the old posts and make the freebies available for a limited time & replace it with something like… “this can now be purchased by clicking here” with a link to the shop? Or… should I just live with what I’ve done to date and move on? My worry is too, that the longer they are out there, the more time there is for someone to figure a way to reuse/recreate for their own purpose. I do have a “for personal, non-commercial use only” on the printables. Thanks… promise I won’t ask another followup question!

    • hi mary

      no worries, feel free to ask as many questions as you like :)

      i think once it’s out there, it’s out there, so rather than doing a limited run, i’d consider doing them less frequently and clearly marking them as for personal use only. part of the catch 22 of freebies is that you get great traffic, but are taking a risk. so i’d just focus on limiting that risk by doing fewer of them and marking them clearly :)


  • This is great information. Thanks for taking the time to compile this information for those of us who could not be at the alt summit. I am struggling with the idea of this information as it relates to Pinterest. I LOVE Pinterest and was feeling so good about it because it automatically adds a link to where you pinned from (though I realize a majority of the photos are not credited). And the whole appeal of Pinterest is the ease and spontaneity of it. The idea of stopping before I pin something to send an email and waiting for response doesn’t make sense to me, given appeal of Pinterest is how easy it makes it to have all of this visual content in one place. I’m not arguing the importance or validity of your information. Just saying it makes Pinterest kind of useless. I know one of the guys from Pinterest was at the summit. Did you per chance get to discuss this with him?

    • beth

      sorry if there was confusion- pinterest isn’t the same as a blog. if you want to collect an image there, you just need to list and link/credit the site. not get permission. blogs and social platforms like that are different. at least for me. if a d*s image runs there i don’t mind as long as it’s credited.

      pinterest is great and it’s a fantastic tool- as long as you list the ORIGINAL credit link (not just another person’s pinterest site) you’re good to go. that said, i know it can be a pain to look for sources but it’s part of the online code we all share together- to treat people the way we’d like to be treated.


  • Great post! It’s informative and an important read/reminder for anyone blogging. I hadn’t heard of Tineye before – what a helpful tool. Thank you for taking the time to write this post.

  • Wonderful post! Love all the tips on how to keep your comments section clean and happy, and how to give credit where credit is due.

    The note about images from newspapers and magazines was particularly helpful!

    You guys are awesome,
    Rachel @ Alive in the Fire

  • Hi Grace, when I first began my blog, I wrote around asking a lot of bloggers for advice on these topics. Probably because there were few general guidelines, and because they were busy, I didn’t get many answers. I can’t stress how INVALUABLE this post has been to me.

    I followed general guidelines which I created for myself. No photo is uncredited, fair use images from retail sites are the only images for which I do not ask permission. Original work by vendors and photographers is ALWAYS ALWAYS posted with permission, which is why I have fewer of those. I never ever post magazine scans. I know that magazines have been slow to prosecute, but that’s because I think they felt their current copyright protection would extend to the internet. Unfortunately, this seems to be changing. I think they will crack down once they catch on. I never take images from personal blogs or other people’s original work.

    There is however, one major exception which I allow myself, and that is in the creation of inspiration boards. I assumed that blog writers were not asking permission and simply using the image while crediting the source. Was I wrong to assume this? I think maybe I should ask Kathryn@Snippet and Ink, since she does a lot of inspiration boards.

    • asiya

      i think i’m not super familiar with the type of inspiration boards people are discussing here. if they’re images you’re using and altering in some way to make them look like a collage image, etc, you still need permission. does everyone get it or ask for it? no. but the bottom line is they should- especially when you’re altering an image to make it look like a part of your own personal collage board.


  • Thanks for taking time to write this post. I’m fairly new to blogging and have always wondered about “rules” and etiquette. This was very helpful!

  • Thank you so much for this. As a fairly new blogger, I have longed for a set of rules that can guide me through the process.


  • This is all very, very useful information, and I’m so glad to see it all in one place. I especially love the bit about commenting. I get so tired of scrolling through mini-ads when I’m trying to follow a discussion!

    You might want to talk to your copy editor, though… You DEFUSE a situation (because it’s like a bomb that you are preventing from blowing up). Light DIFFUSES through a curtain.

    I see quite a few of this type of small grammar errors on D*S (as well as other very big, very professional blogs!), and as someone who notices tiny details, I find it very distracting from the overall tone care and professionalism of this blog.

    I read and enjoy D*S daily. Please keep up the good work!

    • Amy

      I’m sorry that slipped through- did you see any others that were missed? I didn’t notice anything else.


  • Great advice, as a new blogger who was not nearly cool enough to make it to the ALT Summit, I really appreciate you sharing here. Your biz ladies topics are always interesting and informative, thanks again!

  • This was a great post. I am clear about crediting content and images. But I, too, am a rather new blogger and I’m trying to follow the rules.

    My question concerns recipes. I am curious how much of someone else’s recipe can be posted on my blog (with credit, of course always!!!) without stepping on anybody’s toes? I see a lot of cooking blogs that post whole recipes out of books, magazine, etc (also with credit) so I’m curious if that’s kosher.


    • sarah

      bottom line: NONE without permission. recipe originality is a whole other can of worms, but publishers do NOT like people running recipes from books and magazines without permission. kristina our food editor has a lot of experience with this and they’re TOUGH. so always get permission from the publisher first. if they feel it’s damaging book sales (however fair a claim that is or not) they can try to sue for damages- even if you’re a non-profit site. so when in doubt, ask.


  • hey grace! thanks for this awesome post. i just started a blog, and am so confused about this subject. i would NEVER want to steal content from someone or not give credit were it is due, but i just don’t know all the rules! so i have 2 questions if you have them time to answer them…1. how do you put a water mark on a photo? 2. i posted about a print from etsy that you posted about the other day and i gave credit to you and the artist with links, but should i have emailed you first to ask your permission? thanks for all of your great advice!

    • kasey

      hi! thanks, glad you liked it :)

      1. you can add a watermark using photoshop or another program, but only do that on photos that are yours. you can’t put them on anyone else’s images.

      2. you don’t owe me an image credit if it’s an artist/product images- those are all press images and don’t belong to us. that said, if you find a new object because of someone it’s nice to credit them for the inspiration, but it’s not required.


  • So glad I read this! I’m heading back to my blog to edit a post that was intended to praise a couple blogs I love – I need to link back to their stories and cut the text off of my blog… oops. Thank you for sharing this and spreading awareness; this is invaluable information for people who are newbies in blogging. I’ll contact the bloggers to let them know about the error and fix it right away!

  • Ok I can’t stop commenting on this post…I just love it because these are the questions that have been rolling around for months so I like airing my opinions and hoping I’m on the right track. A couple more notes-I’m a pretty product-focused blog so I use a lot of promotional shots, and 1 thing I try to do to respect the image is to never crop or manipulate a promotional image in any way–this way I know I’ m representing the product the same way the seller wanted it to look. Also, if I want to use several promotional photos instead of just 1 or 2, I will ask the designer first. They’re usually happy to let me and also might give me more that they have on file!
    When it comes to things like recipes or projects from a magazine, when in doubt, link to the site of origin. You can still write about a recipe or project you love using your own words, just don’t host it on your site…keep it all where it’s copyrighted. Hopefully this is all logical!

  • Grace,
    What about when someone copies a personal photo from your blog and then takes that photo and posts it on a website like “find a grave.com”.
    I would really like your take on this because I was personally devastated that someone would do this to the memory of my mother. The perpetrator responded with “Its no longer your photo when its on the web.”
    Thank you for this great topic.

    • joan

      well you can tell that person you’ll see them in court. or, more politely, just contact their web host provider (use the arin who is database to get it) and tell them they’re in copyright violation of a personal photo. and send then that lovely email they sent you. you’ll have it down pretty quickly. service providers do NOT want to get sued.

      that said, don’t draw any more attention to that person’s site. just let the provider handle it- they can forcefully remove the image or just take down their site until they comply.

      if that doesn’t work drop me an email (on my contact page) and i’ll refer you to a great copyright lawyer ;)

      so sorry about what you’re going through- whoever runs that site is a serious jerk.


  • This is fantastic, thank you so very much for this. As a new food blogger I’m always trying to make sure that I give credit where credit is due, especially since most of my recipes are adaptations and not originals. I’m always wondering if I’m doing everything the right way. This post is very helpful.

  • Than You So Much!! I have followed your advice and have contacted the website provider. Lets see what happens. I am so honored that you answered!! You will never know how much I appreciate it.:-)

    • joan

      please keep in touch- if there’s anything i can do to help i’m happy to do so. that is a truly offensive and upsetting thing to have to deal with. :(


  • Thanks for the post. I am new to blogging and this information in pure gold to me! What about siting recipes? Is there a different way to site a recipe that has been modified verses one that has not?

    • hi anne

      never publish recipes from a book, newspaper or magazine without permission. those are copyrighted and they DO prosecute people using them without permission. so unless you have written permission i’d leave recipes out until you can get it in writing. publishers will often give you the right to publish a recipe online if you ask nicely and agree to run a cover image from the book itself.


  • Regarding making negative comments — if it’s about the content of a blog post, I’ll make it as a blog comment (and typically sandwich it in the muddle of something I like in the post or in the blog in general). If it’s grammar, or layout stuff, I’ll email the blogger directly — I think of it as being the equivalent of pulling someone aside to tell them they have spinach in their teeth rather than shouting it to someone across a crowded room. I’ve have positive interactions that way and made new friends as a bonus!

  • Following up on my comment yesterday. I emailed a handful of people this morning, requesting permission to run photos in my Friday Finds (typically, I’d run photos with credit/link but no prior permission—this was the blogging etiquette as I understood it when I began). About half have gotten back to me so far, and I’m crossing fingers for the rest. But I did want to point out that doing this offered a great benefit I hadn’t really considered: networking. All of the responders granted permission and most said something about my blog, meaning they stopped to take a look. A few were big-name bloggers, too. It was great to exchange with them personally, and who knows, maybe someday I’ll get a return link that will really affect my traffic. Thanks again for the post and the tips.

    • leeanne

      thanks for pointing that out! it’s never a bad thing to have a chance to connect with (especially in a way that earns respect and appreciation) with other bloggers in your field :)


  • I loan antique quilts, hooked rugs, coverlets, paisleys, textiles and folk art all the time to any design and shelter magazine and blog that asks. Most often magazines seek props to style homes they publish. They borrow for photo credit, hopefully on page, often in a resource guide in the back. I just discovered that a major country magazine publisher created a book about quilts from articles in several of their magazines. They included diagrams to show how to make the quilts that I had loaned them for the shoots!!! They did not ask permission before diagramming these unique antiques, and they failed to identify and credit my store as the source for the various quilts. I am more than annoyed. What recourse do I have? How would you handle this. Their book has been in book stores for a while now, but I just learned about this breach of faith. Thanks for your guidance. Laura Fisher

    • hi laura

      hmm…my gut would be that sadly you don’t have a very good legal case because those quilt designs are yours. you could definitely let them know you’re not pleased they didn’t at least credit you as the source of the rugs themselves, but the design of the quilts would be the only thing in question. but i’m not sure if their age means the copyright is not a question and they’re sort of public domain now. i could be wrong, but since these aren’t your copyrighted rug designs i think your claims to them or a required credit might not be super strong. sorry :(


  • Thank you so much for this article, it is so educational and beneficial for new bloggers like me. I always credit with a text link but it’s good to know that you should ask for permission as well. Thanks again for the beneficial advice!

  • What an informative and generous post, thanks Grace. Also a big thanks to everyone for all their valuable questions.

    This has been exactly what I needed as I have started a new blog although I will be keeping it as original as possible, I have been considering using images from magazines and books.

    I have no intention of reproducing any publication on my blog but do wish to show a couple of images to show the value I find in this material. I will know definitely contact the author/publishers.

    I do have a question for you, Grace. Is there a time period after which it is okay to reproduce the images on my blog. Some of the images I was looking at are from magazines that are ten years old?

    Thanks again.

    • hi deborah

      i’m not sure about the time period, but i think it never hurts to ask the publication for permission. i know i sound like a broken record, but i really feel strongly that asking for permission should almost always be the first step if you’re using someone else’s imagery. that said, really, really old images are often public domain, so you may want to look around for information on that image to see if that’s true.


  • I am sure I have broken a few of these rules (linking to other sites and using magazine photos of ME or MY products). Your information here is fantastic and should be put int some “blogging bible”. I am still shocked by the amount of people out there that continue time after time to break these so-called rules. It is as if they have no respect for copying or being pleasant. I loved the post and you had me when I saw the graphic – my studio has had that image up for five years, and I smile every time I see it!

  • Great information. Thank you. I am hoping to start a blog this year and this article and feedback have been very helpful.

  • WOW! This is so unbelievably, ridiculously informative and helpful. So many of the questions that I’ve had for so long have been answered today. Really. This is stupendous. Thank you!!

  • Thank you for the information.
    I’ve recently started blogging the things I’m making and I try my best to credit the source of my inspirations but now I’m nervous that crediting isn’t enough – that perhaps what I thought were ‘inspirations’ could be considered copying.
    What would you say is the difference between inspired work and copying? I noticed in one of your comment replies above stating that if the work is at least 30% different, it wouldn’t be considered copying.

    • melinda

      30% is a number used in cases of copying that go to court. it typically applies to products, etc. that said, it’s hard to tell without seeing what you’re talking about. i’d say that if your idea/column/post has little new/different about it (and it merely a replication of someone else’s concept) than i’d email them to see how they feel about you carrying on with the same idea- assuming they had that idea first- and it isn’t just an idea that exists. for example, if you wanted to start doing recipes on your blog, no blogger owns the rights to the idea of doing recipes. however, many bloggers have unique column names that would be considered copying.

      joy has a column on her blog called “this and that” that pairs to objects together that have similar styles. it inspired a lot of “similar” columns on other blogs now, though only a few chose to actually take the name, too. as a blogger, i’d consider emailing the people using that idea to discuss the way it made me feel and to see if they could find a new spin on it, but i wouldn’t really pursue anything further unless they took the name as well.

      we’ve had people do this with our columns as well, and for me, “copying” happens when a unique name or idea is reproduced as is, or in full.


  • Thanks so much for addressing this subject, I find its a fine line betweeen cross promotion of other peoples products and copying for outright gain but always try to link or credit the original sight and provide interesting content for our customers.

    Thanks again

  • I’m trying to understand this as well. If the whole point of blogging is for people to spread the word – how is it all not in copyright infringement? Is Huffington Post not one big copyright blog?

    • koolaroo

      there’s a big difference between commenting on an issue and reproducing others’ work in full. as far as i know the huff po doesn’t reproduce people’s work in full without permission. i know they syndicate a lot of other blogs’ content, but they get permission in writing to do so first.


  • Hi Grace,
    Thank you so much for all the work you put into this post.This is all incredibly helpful and the qustions of all the other bloggers and consequent answers from you make such informative reading.
    think I will copy and paste this on my desktop as a short manual for myself only ( !! ) so I won’t go wrong now or in the future- as long as you will give me permission ! !! Better safe than sorry !!And I PROMISE I will not send/ duplicate etc to anyone else.
    A lot of it makes sense and some of it makes you aware of scary pitfalls I did not think of before.Own content I understand, best, and that is what I aim for really- all the time.I will tread very carefully with recipes though as this sound very scary- maybe less recipes that lean on others and more design is the way to go for me !!
    Thanks also for explaining about how to put a watermark on one’s pictures- I will give that a go, as I feel I should really start with this.
    Thanks again , you are such a brick as they say in England.
    And, o , you do sound like a Gemini although you don’t believe in Astrology !!


    PS my Bday is 18th June :-)))

  • This is a great post. I’ve been pleasantly surprised when someone sends me a post about my photography. But sometimes it’s not so pleasant. I do normally get paid for reproduction of my photographs. For personal bloggers who are finding inspiration I am happy with photo credit and link to my site. But I have found that some personal blogs then become very popular and start charging for advertising on their sites. So my work (and the stylists, the editor, the designer, and the art directors’ work) become commodified without any compensation.
    I think when bloggers start to understand how much work WE put into the creation of said images/words, (not to forget our overhead costs, the taxes, the actual expense of creating), then maybe they won’t be so quick to dismiss and copy and paste something that we’ve likely spent countless hours/days/months on.
    I’ve never asked anyone for money, yet. I like inspiring and creating new ways of seeing. But please, try to create something new with the blog post. I’m sure it will make the artist and the blogger feel a lot better about this whole conundrum.

  • I know everyone has already said this, but thank you so much for spelling out the do’s and don’ts of online etiquette!!! I started my blog in September and avoided using others’ images in the beginning, but have gotten a little lazy. This was a good kick in the pants to request permission and stick with original content!

  • Grace, Very interesting post. I now realize I have made many mistakes. When I started blogging, I asked another “big time” blogger( who I won’t name here) about using images and was told that all I needed to do was credit the source. She added that if someone complains you just delete the post . Clearly not good advice. Yet it seems that so many people do just that.
    This post leaves me wondering how so design blogs stay in existence. Lynn

    • decor arts now

      well, i’ll tell you from experience- if you’ve violated a copyright (knowingly or unknowingly), deleting the post doesn’t do anything. the pickle i got caught in didn’t clear up with that- it ended with a potential lawsuit that was thankfully able to be settled with a photo license payment + “interest” for the time i’d used it without it. so deleting doesn’t mean anything all the time ;)


  • This may have already been covered , so my apologies for the redundancy…

    I’ve noticed a few vintage images making their way around the blogosphere lately – which do not credit the original photographer/source. I do know the site where they are originating from – but that site also says nothing about where the images come from or what terms they are being shared under.

    I would love to use some of them in a post but do not want to get stuck in any legal matters if the original site {which is getting tons of exposure} gets busted.

    Any advice? The original site is a Tumblr and I can’t find any contact info for the site’s owner.

    thanks in advance,

    • hi eva

      i would do some research on the image to see if you can find out if it’s a public domain image. without seeing it i can’t know off hand, sorry :(


  • Hi Grace,

    Thanks so much for taking the time to post this. These issues are really essential information for any blogger and it’s great to have access to your discussion at Alt. I am a new blogger (only 5 months old!) and these are all topics I have struggled to find answers to. I really appreciate the copying and crediting info as well. I create layouts for every single post and it is a little frustrating to see it all over Tumblr with little to no credit.

    Thanks again for the great information and I am eagerly awaiting the next two segments!

    xo Kelly

    • kelly

      thanks so much! i’m so glad you liked it :)

      that’s so exciting and quite admirable that you’re already creating custom layouts- well done! i really love when bloggers devote that much time to their content and the way it looks so early on. two thumbs up. ;)


  • Hi Grace – Thank you for being so very generous with your time and hard-earned knowledge. I recently made the decision to delete a comment, and it was not easy to do. But, at the end of the day, the comment was not constructive and was a personal attack…and not even on me! It was on a guest post.

    I am so glad you mentioned Etsy! I get very nervous in this area. Occasionally, I want to feature work that I love with the intent of driving sales to the artist/maker. But I’ve seen some that don’t like their work posted on blogs, so I mostly stopped doing so.

    I think I hear you saying, for example, I should not post an image from one of your sneak peeks with a line saying something like, I love this peek over on Design*Sponge. Go check it out! I very rarely do that type of thing, but I wanted to double-check.

    One thing I do need to talk about with my web designer is that I wanted to post “shared” items from my feedburner on a page on my blog – posts I found really and truly special. My intent was to showcase other bloggers in a more meaningful way than posting a blogroll. But now I realize that this is very nearly scraping!! This is the polar opposite of my intent. Do you think this idea could be salvaged if I only shared a partial feed with a clear link that says go read this post? Or is it entirely a bad idea? I’m reading this in the nick of time…I should have realized what I would have done…but the road to hell is paved with good intentions and all that!

    • brigitte

      i just wanted to clarify- i didn’t mean that people shouldn’t post images from etsy or another blog (ie: our sneak peeks). i meant that people shouldn’t post them either in full (in the case of our sneak peeks, for example) or without permission (in the case of an image that’s an original belonging to someone else).

      most people on etsy are there to sell things, and publicity is a big part of that, so i would be surprised if anyone on etsy was mad that their work was posted about positively.

      the issue of partial feeds is tricky, and differs from blogger to blogger. personally i think if you want to support a blogger and their content, you should mention posts you find particularly interesting and link back to them once in a while. running a constant feed will lesson the impact over time as people will see it and expect it- rather than being surprised by a new post in which you explain why something is interesting. i find that occasional mentions in the editorial section (main column) of your blog are always more effective than blog rolls or rss feeds.


  • Can I just add to the etiquette bit…It makes me crazy when I see “images via” but no name of the blogger or photographer!! I mean, if you’re going to use our images, at least give us the SEO by linking our names! That is a huge pet peeve of mine.

  • Thank you so much for clarifying! I had always thought you could post a snippet if you wanted to build on the ideas or share something really special with readers (but only enough to get them to click on the original link)…but reading this got me all worried!

    Regarding the feed, my idea is to only share articles that are particularly moving. I want to do this, because my rule of thumb is to share other people’s inspiring content on Twitter and only share the content in a post if I have a significant addition to the theme. But not all readers are on Twitter, so that feels really limiting. This would be similar to how you can share individual posts in Google Reader with your friends. But your point about adding commentary is a good one. I have some thinking to do on this!

    My background is in PR, so I think that makes me all the more conscious of the ethics in publishing. But not in a good way…I think it’s up to us as self-publishers to educate ourselves on the law and ethical standards – and not just to follow the crowd.

  • thank you grace for the wonderful panel at alt – i learned so much and enjoyed hearing such wisdom and candid thoughts and experiences from all of you! and thanks for posting it here for those that couldn’t make it.

  • Hi Grace, I had a little free time this evening and tried out tineye by uploading some of my own photos to check on where they are used. I know of several sites using each photo (with permission) and tineye didn’t find them. Maybe there is a trick to using this service that I don’t know about?
    Have you had success using it?
    Thank you so much,

    • hi michaela

      i’m not sure about the details of tineye, but i’m sure there’s a chance it doesn’t catch everything- but it sure does catch most of them ;)


  • Thank you Grace,

    I will keep working it – with determination! I so appreciate all of the help and guidance you have provided here.
    Also, I thought this link to US copyright office and the fair use doctrine might be good for people to know about: ( Copyright: http://tiny.cc/das6e Fair Use: http://tiny.cc/fgcwb )
    I love that this site encourages all of us to learn about our rights and responsibilities. I think that at heart, we all want to do the right and fair thing :)


  • I really appreciate this post! As someone who is somewhat new to blogging (besides my own personal family blog, and a couple of unsuccessful attempts otherwise) I find that one of my biggest worries is blog etiquette. I don’t want to step on anyones toes as far a content, comments and photos are concerned. I think when you are starting out in blogging and you’re still learning the in’s and out’s it’s easy to do something unintentionally that may offend someone. So it’s really nice to have experienced bloggers do posts like this so that we can all learn from each other. It’s an important topic because as bloggers you put yourself out there and you want to put your best foot forward. So thank you for these pearls of wisdom. I know I will keep all these things in mind.

  • Thanks for ALL your great BIZ articles! I’m just warming up to start my own biz using Etsy, etc, and learned from your articles that it really helps to have a blog as well, so I’ve been perusing others to see how it’s done. I know when I see a site that gives credit I instantly respect them. I’ve seen a DIY that was a total copy and someone commented, quite PC too, that didn’t so and so have that same thing?

    I have only read half the comments here today (will come back and finish cuz so many of the comments are also educating me), but wanted to pop in and say you are basically my hero in this field and I have great respect for your intellect, talent, and personality. I would never have had the ‘guts’ to jump into a somewhat foreign world without having been drawn into design*sponge.

    And thanks to your commenters as well as they often teach me something new or enlighten a dimly known subject for me. And this article was something I’d already wondered about just being a reader but will be invaluable as a blogger/seller!

    • PKae

      thank you so much for your kind comments, it means so much to me to know that this article or anything else on the site has been inspiring or helpful. that’s what makes us excited to get up and work every morning. thanks :)


  • Hi Grace,

    I know you touched on recipes above but I’m still a little confused as to what is appropriate amount of original content to re-post on my own blog. I occasionally post recipes and I link back to where I found them. The ingredients stay the same but I usually add my own instructions or add notes about my experience with the recipe. Is this appropriate? I haven’t ever written for permission but I always link back . How about old tried-and-true recipes that I have inherited on note-cards from my mother. I don’t know where they came from but its likely from an old Southern Living Magazine article or something. I use them frequently and would like to share them but I don’t know whom to credit.


    • Heather

      When in doubt, ask for permission. If it’s not yours (family recipe, original recipe) I’d ask first. Anything from a mag, book or newspaper definitely needs permission. To me recipes are like other types of original content- for example- if I worked 2 weeks to research a house tour, get pictures and write the post I’d be ticked if someone reported it in full- same with a recipe. Writing anyone else’s content in full should, to me, be off limits unless you have permission.


  • Grace, thank you very much for this post! As a photographer who runs a food and lifestyle blog, I put a LOT of effort into making sure all of my posts feature truly original content. I also become extremely frustrated when I find that my work has been reproduced on other blogs without my permission. I put forth the effort to take the photos, edit them, and post them, and for someone else to piggyback on my hard work by simply uploading my image to their blog is offensive.

    As a photographer, my photos are my work. Therefore, it’s important that I retain ownership of my photos. I wish all bloggers understood that aspect. It would be different if I sold products and other bloggers shared my product images–that would be great PR for my business.

    I genuinely appreciate the people who email me to ask for permission to repost my photos… even though I may end up saying “no” more often as I get more requests. For instance, Gourmet asked if they could share my photo as their featured photo of the day, to which my answer was a resounding YES. However, when a blog that exists primarily to promote their own product asked to feature my photo, that was a big NO. Then there’s tumblr, which is a frustrating platform because people don’t think about reposting stuff that’s not theirs because someone else has already shared it. And strangely enough, sometimes even big-name brands repost photos without permission, like ReadyMade Magazine. They posted a photo of mine and a link to my blog for the recipe, which I appreciate because it sent a significant amount of traffic my way, but they never asked for my permission!

    I’ll stop rambling now. I just hope that articles like this one convince more bloggers to credit where credit is due and to ask permission before publishing photos. We photographers put a lot of effort into our work. And as a blogger who is committed to publishing original content, I wonder, wouldn’t it be nice if everyone published original content? If every blog was different from every other? If only…

  • I love it!

    Ok, just kidding!
    Comments that extend the discussion or offer some feedback are always the most interesting.

  • Thank you for a thoughtfully written post. I too hope that more folks begin to care about blogging ethics. This is my first comment at D*S, but I enjoy your blog and all of the hard work you put into bringing quality content. It’s heartening to know that behind the scenes sits a very astute blogger!

    I’ve had to deal with bloggers using my photographs, projects and phrasing without attribution. Or with attribution but as an afterthought. Another frustration is that the blogger might give attribution in one post and then develop art based on your concept/design and it becomes “their” design in the reader’s eye.

    I work hard to constantly bring new ideas and content and the dishonesty out there is disheartening.

    Thank you! Look fwd to the next part.


  • Thank You very much for this information, I didn’t know a lot of things you said , but thanks to you now I know. Because I am new in this so thanks.

  • 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.

  • As a newer blogger, these past few ALT summaries have been really valuable….don’t want to tick off anyone in the blogsphere!

  • 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?

    • elizabeth

      i’m afraid i don’t know, but if there is, it should be where you moderate them, next to their name/email.


  • 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,
    Thank you for this informative post. I’m new to the blogging world and I found it so helpful. Excellent!!

  • 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!

  • I appreciate you taking the effort to prepare this subject. Great line up. We will be linking to this on our site. Keep up the good writing.

  • 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.