This post is the second in a series called Sharing FM. 

The previous post in this series celebrated the visual aesthetics of FM blogs, which I likened to an online festival. But I added that, looming above, were some storm clouds.

If all the images you use on your blog are yours, then keep on dancing. The sky above you is sunlit.

But supposing you use images that you don’t own? You use images that you have begged, stolen, or borrowed. Well, then there might well be clouds above you.

If you’ve used images the copyright for which is owned by someone else, the likelihood is that you will have infringed that person’s copyright.


What does this mean? Here I’ll give just a brief, non-technical, explanation. That’s in part because I’m not a lawyer and am certainly not qualified to give any kind of legal guidance on the matter. And it’s also because there are good explanations already available online.[1]

My non-technical explanation goes like this. According to the conventions of our society, you can claim to own stuff – money, clothes, a phone, a home, and so on.

Much of the stuff is tangible: you can reach out and touch your phone, for example. But some of the stuff you own may be intangible. For example, I own the right to use the lane that connects our house to the public highway.

I also own rights to this blog post you’re reading. For example, I own the right to be acknowledged as the author. In the unlikely event that you wanted to claim that it was yours – that you were the person who wrote it – well you can’t. You’re not allowed to replace my by-line with yours.

Similarly, you can’t mess around with it. Let’s say that you happened to know my WordPress password: that wouldn’t mean you’re allowed to come in and mess around with what I’ve written. You couldn’t, for example, change the sequence in which the content comes, or leave stuff out, or introduce new content.

And, in the event that I worked out some way to monetise the content, by for example including it in a book on FM, the right to whatever income accrued – from, say, royalties or sale of translation rights – would be mine.

The shorthand for the previous three paragraphs is: I own the copyright. (Or, strictly speaking, I own the copyright and related rights: but this isn’t a textbook, so let’s ignore that distinction.) Copyright is a tool for preventing people helping themselves to, or interfering with, part of our property – more precisely, part of your intellectual property.

So if, for example, there’s a photograph, the rights of which you don’t own, you’re not entitled to simply copy it and paste it into your blog. This is true, regardless of whether you edit it in some way (by, for example, cropping).

This will be true too regardless of whether original was accompanied by one of those © marks. Copyright applies automatically: it doesn’t need to be registered or marked.

For example, because I wrote it, I own the copyright of the post you’re reading, even though I haven’t applied a © mark.

So what?

You might be wondering, ‘Does any of this matter?’ After all, copying and pasting on line is rife. It’s part of Internet culture. Using someone else’s image might not be strictly above board but, you might be forgiven for asking, but is anything bad going to happen as a result?

Good question: but one I suggest for the next post in the series.

[1] See ‘What is copyright?’ published by the Copyright Licensing Agency ( and ‘guidance on copyright and permissions’, published by the Society for Authors (


Image: Sharing music. Roman style by Ed Yourdon, generously made available under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY NC-SA 2.0) licence. Source: Flickr.


Published under an Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) licence. If you don’t know what that means or why it matters, don’t worry: subsequent posts will explain what this ‘CC’ stuff is about.

Title:             In which storm clouds gather over FM content

Attribution:   Du Malone

Source:        Black Sea FM (

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