Guest Blogs and Copyrights

Authors often build platform, audience, and recognition through articles and guest blogging.

Freelance articles, written either “for exposure” or for pay, need to be written pursuant to contracts that specify publication terms, copyright status, and other important information.

Guest blogs are normally written by verbal or email agreement (without a separate contract). This is fine, as long as both parties understand and agree upon the basic terms that govern the guest post.

Let’s look at a few principles authors should pay attention to when writing guest posts for blogs:

1. Maintain Ownership of Your Content. Make sure it’s clear that the guest post (and its copyright) belongs to you. If you’re not sure about the blog or website’s policy on this: ask, don’t assume. I’d never try to claim copyright in a guest blog–and most bloggers and authors I know wouldn’t, either–but not everyone follows the same set of ethics. When in doubt, ask (politely) so you know.

2. Get a Byline/Bio and Link to Your Blog or Website. Guest posts should always conclude with a brief (one-paragraph) bio that links to your website and/or the sales pages for your work. Many blogs will also include a headshot (if you provide one). If you’re putting in the effort to write a guest blog, you should definitely get credit for the work. This also ensures that your name is attached to the work, which helps prove copyright ownership.

3. Make Sure to Attribute Quotes and Other Appropriate Content. If you’re quoting (or paraphrasing) extensively from another work, or if your guest post contains content which should be footnoted or attributed, be sure to do so. Plagiarism and copyright laws apply to blog posts as well as to novels and other copyrightable content.

4. Don’t Use Photos in Guest Blogs Unless You’re Sure of Copyright Status & Permission. Copyright applies to photographs and art as well as words. You can’t just pull a photo off the Internet and use it without permission. Make sure all photos included in guest posts are copyright-released, licensed, or photos you took (and own) yourself.

A hint: when you’re out and about, use your phone (or camera) to take photos of things that might be useful in guest posts. Then, you can draw from your own “stock photo” library without needing to worry about copyright in the images.

5. Understand the Blogger’s Rules (or Guidelines) for Re-posting – and be Courteous. Some bloggers request “exclusivity,” which means you can’t re-post the content (on your blog or elsewhere). Exclusivity should be limited (if any) and last only for a reasonable time. 30-90 days is fairly standard. Even if the blogger doesn’t request exclusivity, it’s considered polite to refrain from re-using the content for at least a couple of weeks. (Personally, I wait at least a month before re-posting content.)

6. When You Do Re-Post, It’s Nice to Attribute. A link to the original blog (assuming the content is still live) and an acknowledgment that the post “originally appeared on [Name of Blog] on [date]” is a polite, and appropriate, thank-you to the blogger who gave you the guest spot.

7. Don’t Re-Use Guest Posts Without Disclosing The Fact to Hosts. Whether or not you own the copyright (and, therefore, the legal right to re-use) it’s impolite to offer a recycled “guest post” without disclosure.

8. Remember: Guest Blogging is About Building Relationships as Well as Maintaining Rights. You’re not likely to get invited back if you act like a jerk. (A rule which holds true in most aspects of life, and this is no exception.) Take the time to understand the host’s guidelines and expectations in advance. It often prevents problems down the line. Also, act courteously, even if things don’t go exactly as you planned. Sometimes posts go “live” later than expected. Sometimes blogs and Internet servers crash. Understanding and good manners go a long way toward getting problems corrected–and building mutually beneficial relationships with your hosts.

Note: these principles are not the same as the ones an author should use when writing for websites, magazines, or other outlets. These guidelines apply only to guest posts on blogs. Once you move into the realm of “freelance writing” the normal contract guidelines should apply, and you should get the terms in writing and in advance, to be sure you’re not inadvertently surrendering important rights.