All posts filed under: Copyright

Using Creative Commons licensed images on your site with confidence

Introduction As many readers will know, when sourcing images for your blog or website, you can’t just do a Google images search, find an image you like, copy it and insert it in your post editor. Well, you can, physically, but legally this is a recipe for copyright infringement. If you don’t have your own images, two common alternatives are to: purchase a licence to images from the likes of iStock, Shutterstock and Bigstock; or find and use images that have been either licensed under a Creative Commons licence or released into the public domain under CC0 (pronounced CC zero). In this post, I’m going to focus on the latter: Creative Commons. Whilst some people are familiar with Creative Commons licensing, many people are not, particularly if they’ve had no need to use Creative Commons-licensed material in the past or to release material under a Creative Commons licence. For this reason, I’m going to: introduce Creative Commons and its licences; and explain how to comply with the attribution requirements that are common to all of …

Taking care with the IP terms of WordPress development services

Setting the scene Does this sound like you? You need to have a custom theme or plugin developed. Or you need help modifying an existing theme or plugin. You need someone to build a WordPress platform of some sort. Or you otherwise need help doing X, Y or Z with your WordPress site or business that, like the other tasks just mentioned, will involve the creation of new software code. You need the work done yesterday, you’re happy to pay a reasonable amount for it and you just want to get on with it. I’ve been in this kind of situation a few times and I’m sure there are thousands out there that either have been too or are in it right now. Rather than going to a known developer (you might not know any), you might turn to one of the WordPress-specific job shops such as codeable or WerkPress or similar services for which WordPress is clearly an important category, such as Elto (formerly Tweaky) or Envato Studio. In your hurry, you may tick …

Press This and copyright infringement

Press This and what’s up A helpful reader mentioned to me the other day that an interesting issue has cropped up in discussions within Github on the WordPress “Press This” tool. For those not familiar with this tool, go to “Tools” > “Available Tools” within your WordPress installation, where you’ll find a bookmarklet that you can add to your browser’s bookmarks bar. As explained in your WordPress installation: “Press This is a bookmarklet: a little app that runs in your browser and lets you grab bits of the web. Use Press This to clip text, images and videos from any web page. Then edit and add more straight from Press This before you save or publish it in a post on your site.” This helpful video from WordPress.org explains Press This in more detail: It seems that Press This is being further developed and that this has prompted some community members to think about copyright infringement through the use of this tool. For example, one person asks: “I’m not the best person to comment on …

A reader asks: Theme reviews, CC0, model releases and GPL-compatibility

Question Ulrich asks: “I do theme reviews for the theme repository on WordPress.org. All the code and assets in the theme need to be GPL compatible. I have a few questions about how GPL compatible images work with model releases. The popular GPL compatible image licence is CC0. Can an image be released under CC0 even if there is no model release? Is a CC0 image without a model release GPL compatible? Who is responsible for getting the model release? The photographer, theme author, website owner? Who is liable if a theme with a CC0 image without a model release is used on a pornographic site?” Thanks for the great bunch of questions Ulrich. I appreciate receiving them. Outline and summary Outline Before I jump into the specific questions you’ve raised, I think it may be helpful for some people if we step back from those questions and: sketch out what WordPress.org and the Theme Review Handbook have to say about GPL-compatibility; describe CC0; analyse what is meant by “GPL-compatibility”; and explain why, in my …

WordPress-related business brands: protect and do no harm

The significance of WordPress-related brands As I’ve noted in an earlier post, as WordPress has evolved and become more popular, more and more businesses have sprung up in what someone referred to the other day as “the WordPress marketplace”. In addition to Automattic, there are: theme shops: think Array, Elegant Themes, StudioPress, WooThemes, ThemeForest, Themezilla and (one of my minimalist favourites) Elmastudio, among countless others; plugin and app shops: think Rocketgenius’ Gravity Forms, Yoast’s WordPress SEO Premium, the impressive array of WPMU DEV plugins, iThemes’ BackupBuddy, Gravity Wiz, CodeCanyon, Conductor, Reactor by AppPresser, VelocityPage and Pippins Plugins (whose site, I’ve just noticed, has had a super redesign), again among many others; WordPress designers (too many to even start naming); WordPress coding shops: think WerkPress and Envato Studio; WordPress news sites: think WPTavern, again among others; WordPress business consultancy, support services and fora: think Chris Lema, Matt Report Pro, WP Elevation, Post Status Membership Club, WP Site Care and WP Curve; and WordPress security services (like Sucuri). All of these businesses have distinctive brands, the importance …

A reader asks: About populating one’s site with third party content

The question John asks: “My question is about using third party content in my blog. I see a lot of sites using third party content, such as news, at their own site, by simply adding the source reference and link. What are the conventions in that sense? Are we allowed to use an article from another blog/news site as long as we reference the source of the article? Most news sites don’t seem to have any warning about that while others clearly state that this practice is forbidden at their site. For instance, I came across one of them that states the following at bottom of articles: “All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced in print, electronically, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without written permission.” Comments Many thanks for your question John. I assume from your question that, when you talk about using third party content and then adding the source reference and link, you’re talking about reproducing whole articles or at least substantial chunks of articles, together with the reference and …

Negative SEO and legal remedies

The negative SEO campaign against WP Site Care By now, many in the WordPress community will have heard of the negative SEO campaign against WP Site Care that Ryan Sullivan, its founder, described in Negative SEO: Destroying Businesses One Spammy Backlink at a Time. On this occasion, the negative SEO attack appears to have been caused by voluminous backlinks, including a “spike in unnatural links from lots of unsavory sources over the course of a few days” which, in turn, appears to have caused a plummet in Google rankings. Ryan explains that his company’s bottom line suffered a significant hit as a result of the lower traffic volumes to the site and that they were able to trace the backlink attack back to the source: someone within the WordPress community. He says: “They did everything through a third-party, an internet hitman of sorts, to try and cover their tracks, but they weren’t quite careful enough and we were able to uncover where everything started.” Ryan exercised considerable restraint in not naming any names when, it …

A reader asks: Taking screenshots and turning them into thumbnails

The question In the comments to one my posts, a reader left an interesting question, the discussion of which I thought was better off in a new post. Not only does that enable others to see it more easily but taking this path preserves the reader’s anonymity (I haven’t published the comment, for reasons he’ll understand when he reads this post). The question was this: ‘As a hypothetical, if I create a screenshot of someone else’s website and turn it into a smaller thumbnail, how would this be considered under copyright?’ My comments on this question are below, written as if I was talking directly to the person that asked the question. I don’t limit my comments to a screenshot of someone else’s website. The screenshot might, for example, be of a single photo you see on another site. Comments The question you raise is an interesting one. I’ll make some comments but you’ll appreciate that this isn’t legal advice. My standard disclaimer applies. (I’m sure I’ll get tired of saying that after a while… …

WordPress themes, the GPL and the conundrum of derivative works

Meet ‘theme’ In the beginning (of WordPress that is) there was no separate theming system as we know it today. Rather, the theming system that we now know and love was added in version 1.5 (“Strayhorn”), in February 2005, and has been enhanced numerous times since then. Today, the humble theme – responsible for the layout, look and feel of a site – is a key and swappable component of virtually every WordPress installation and, as most WordPress users know, for those who don’t wish to develop their own theme there is a dazzling array of readily available themes to choose from. Evolution of commercial themes and their licensing As WordPress became more and more popular and as people began to see and leverage its value, it was inevitable that new business models would emerge. One such business model was the development and sale of premium/commercial themes. Turning to the topic of licensing (and putting what the GPL may require to one side for now), the owners of such businesses could license their themes: in their …

The GPL and the story of WPScan and Vane

The debate By now, many in the WordPress community will have heard about the WPScan/GPL debate. Personally I was a bit late to the party on this one but, thanks to a tweet from ManageWP this morning, I’ve now read a bit about it. I’m not expressing a legal conclusion Now, I don’t want to wade into this specific debate and try to express a legal view on what’s right and wrong here because I don’t know the facts well enough. Instead, I’m just going to state a few propositions that I believe reflect copyright law (in many countries) and the requirements of the GPL. I leave open how they might apply to this situation and, to be clear, I’m not providing any legal advice to anyone that reads this post. My usual disclaimer applies (I know that sounds a bit OTT but I’m just exercising a lawyer’s caution). The propositions So, without further ado, here are those propositions I mentioned: Sole copyright owner can do what she wants:  A person (or company), lets call …