Straight out of the gate let me tell you two things:
1. I am not a lawyer/copyright expert.
2. Bloggers tend to be quite laissez faire with issues of ownership and we really do need to tighten up and become more professional, adhering to professional ethics and standards on this.
In the olden days, bloggers used to just whack up an image with a link back to the image owner and all was sweet. Sometimes, even, on platforms like Tumblr, bloggers wouldn’t bother with an image credit at all. This is why Pinterest is haunted with 1000s of hard to credit images – Tumblr’s lax bloggers are to blame!
Now, as blogging really comes into its own, we need to respect the copyright and work of other creatives and follow a few steps to keep things nice.
1. Are you using someone else’s image? Ask their permission. Some bloggers have a little notice in their sidebar saying they are happy for you to use images if you link back to them. You don’t really need to ask for permission in those cases. For every other case, do write to the blogger/creative and ask if it’s okay to use their image.
2. Are you using someone else’s words? Ask their permission. Unless it’s an out of copyright quote from some dead guy like Plato.
3. Are you linking to someone else? No need to ask. Linking is good and encouraged and totally permissible.
4. Are you referring to an idea someone else came up with and writing your piece about it or creating a variation on that idea? You need to credit them. Credit where credit is due.
These guidelines are very basic. There’s heaps more info for Australian bloggers detailing how to stay on the right side of copyright when you are blogging here at Arts Law.
If you do use the images or words of another creative person, know that they can chase you up, legally and it could cost you financially and in terms of reputation too. Do unto others and ask permission. And don’t ‘borrow’ ideas or content. Better not to blog at all than to be a copy-cat.