If you happen to be a blogger like myself, you know that there’s no denying it — we’re living in a brave new world. Though the industry is showing rapid growth (yay!), being an influencer is still not a profession that is respected or understood by all. I could list off countless examples of instances that I’ve been underestimated and undervalued as a blogger (come on though, that’d be more like a novel than a blog post), but I refuse to give any more of my time and emotional energy to these situations.
Instead, I’ll share with you what I know about protecting your content as a blogger.
Why You Need to Protect Your Content
Protecting your time, influence, and overall content creations is essential to be successful in this industry. Not only that, but I promise it will provide you with more satisfaction than picking a fight or working yourself up every time you feel like someone’s undermining your work. Knowing the ins and outs of protecting your creative work is the only way you can be sure you aren’t being taken advantage of. And think about it, if all influencers become educated and unwilling to get ripped off or taken advantage of, that’s a major win for this industry. That’s going to set a lot of other things in motion (like securing more well paid work and establishing content creation as a legitimate profession).
So, let’s get to it shall we? Here are my top five tips for protecting your content as a blogger…
1. Read Your Contracts Thoroughly
Reading through contracts is tough, but it’s 110 percent necessary. Do not just glaze over it and sign! You need to read every. single. word. Contracts are an insanely easy avenue for brands to sneak in little clauses that oftentimes, contingent upon you signing the agreement, give up the rights to your work. If you see anything in a contract about licensing your photos/editorial or signing away your likeness, you need to question it! This is a situation in which you should be being paid well beyond your average sponsored rates. Licensing photos especially is big bucks, and this is something you also would need to discuss if you hire a professional photographer. Depending on your agreement with your photographer and who owns the license to those photos, you can get yourself in a sticky situation very quickly if you don’t read and understand all of these little nuances.
Things to Clarify with the Brand: What type of license is the brand trying to acquire? (i.e. social media use, print advertisements, etc.) How long are they seeking it for? Are they going to tag you in social media repost or otherwise credit your work?…these are all things you can & should negotiate! And if the brand doesn’t want to pay a licensing fee and/or won’t agree to credit you for exposure, they need to remove that clause point blank period. Otherwise, drop the deal. It’s not worth losing the rights to your work.
2. Register Your Copyright
As soon as you publish anything to your site, it’s automatically protected under copyright. Here’s the thing though…that doesn’t actually give you much legal grounds to sue for copyright infringement. That’s why it’s important to actually register your blog posts on the U.S. copyright registration portal. You can register posts in bulk (for example, at the end of each quarter), and it typically costs $35-55. This might seem like an unnecessary precaution, but it’s definitely worth it in the unfortunate event that someone steals your work.
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3. Do Not Just Respond “Yes”/”Approve”/etc. on Instagram
Have you ever gotten a comment or direct message on Instagram that went something like this — Hi there, we (the brand) think this photo is awesome! Can we share it with our followers? Reply “Yes” to agree. There are a ton of different variations of this message, but the bottom line is that you should not just be replying “Yes”. I recently received a direct message from a large brand asking me to grant them the COMMERCIAL RIGHTS to one of my photos. And the real kicker? They offered absolutely no compensation. The sickening part is that I’m a paying customer of this brand’s. We have no business relationship whatsoever, but I chose to tag them in my photo since I always tag relevant brands in my Instagram posts to share my content with them and get on their radar for upcoming opportunities. If I had just responded “Yes” to this brand, they could do whatever they wanted with my photo (repost it on social media, create a billboard, use it for online advertisements) with absolutely no credit to me at all. No thanks! Be careful on Instagram peeps, and always follow the link if there’s one provided to see all the terms you’d be agreeing to. You should ALWAYS be receiving credit for your photos when a brand reposts you, unless they’re willing to purchase a commercial license (for an even heftier fee if they don’t want to have to tag your account for exposure).
5. Know Your Value
Above all, the most important piece of advice I can give you is to know your value. Don’t be afraid to negotiate when it comes to brand deals to ensure you come to a mutually beneficial agreement. Question the way that your creative work is being used, if you think something seems out of line. Blogging is still a young industry, and we have a long way to go! It’s all about taking these baby steps and standing your ground when it makes sense.
Do you have any tips on protecting your content as a blogger? Please share them in the comments, and we can all help educate each other and improve the industry!