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See if you think these seem like great ideas for winning friends and influencing people.

  • Scold your junior high peers for exploiting/goading a special needs child into performing solo song and dance routines during lunch recess.
  • During your first week of high school in a new town, sit down in the middle of your choir class while everyone else is standing. When the music teacher asks you why, answer thusly: “It’s just too awful; I can’t bear to participate.”

Am I the only one who gets embarrassed when reflecting back on the adolescent stunts I pulled in junior high and high school? What an egghead! But I give my former self props for one thing: I had the courage of my convictions. Unfortunately, I didn’t know (or care?) anything about diplomacy. Now, it’s the other way around.

As an adult, I’m ashamed to admit the number of times I’ve sat on the sidelines and said nothing in the midst of some injustice. Life eventually teaches us all to be more careful, doesn’t it?

At least it sometimes does. Today, I’m violating my own carefulness by bringing up a subject that’s really starting to bug me. It’s the flagrant violation of copyright law in the blogosphere.

Navigating copyright law

The diplomatic side of me wants to say this in a way that comes across better than my pompous junior high antics did—because heaven only knows that the waters of copyright keep getting murkier (especially for fashion bloggers) and I haven’t navigated them perfectly myself. What I notice most is how trying to discuss it openly and honestly with other bloggers typically goes over like a fart in church––not well. We’re uncomfortable discussing it because we know it’s a weakness in our work. That’s a shame because we have so much potential for helping each other stay legal.

With that in mind, I begin with the basic premise that everyone who writes a blog does so with intention of sharing content that informs, entertains or helps others—and possibly makes money in the process. It’s all good stuff.

What’s not good is when we take what belongs to someone else and use it for these purposes without their permission—even though our intentions aren’t to cause them harm. Here’s the problem—it’s illegal.

Where most bloggers get ourselves in trouble is our failure to appreciate the fact that a blog—even one that has no underlying commercial goal—puts us in the publishing business. That makes us responsible for creating interesting, original content every time we publish and for abiding by the same laws that govern commercial publishers. That law says it’s not okay to just regurgitate other people’s stuff.

Nowhere is this more problematic for bloggers than in creating visual content. Let’s face it—not everyone who blogs is a great photographer or graphic artist. (I’m certainly not.) But most of us can’t justify or afford purchased stock art or professional photography. So what’s an ambitious blogger to do? Too many of us are hiding behind a veiled misunderstanding of fair use. We see other people republishing works and think, “It must be okay if they are doing it.” It isn’t. In my next post, I’ll share three myths about fair use and why we’re all better off creating original content anyway.

coral sandals

Today’s post is a perfect example of a blogger’s dilemma. I have not one photograph that was suitable for a post about copyright law. So instead, I’m sharing the latest installment of the $75 Summer Challenge—these coral sandals. Four weeks into the challenge, I’m cruising well below budget, so I splurged and spent $19 on these sandals, which were surprisingly comfortable considering their height.

What are your most difficult copyright questions? What are your copyright pet peeves? How are you doing with the $75 Summer Challenge? I’m linking this post to Not Dead Yet Style, hoping some lovely bloggers at Visible Monday will join the conversation about copyright law.

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.