Copyright Rules for Content Aggregators

J.P. Hicks
Blog Tips

Aggregating material from around the Web on your blog can help drive traffic tremendously, especially if you already have a large following. Contrary to popular belief, aggregating material does not hurt your search rankings.

If it did, all major news websites would be penalized for posting the exact same Reuters or Associated Press stories everyday. And obviously CNN and Huffington Post are doing just fine with Google.

If you have a blog that aggregates material, it’s important to make sure you also produce some compelling original material to compliment your aggregated stories. These originals are what set you apart from other websites similar to yours.

Aggregating offers diversity to your readers and more potential links pointing to your blog. But content aggregators must be aware of Copyright rules and Fair Use rights so that you don't get shut down for infringing. As the Copyright laws debate heats up in governments around the world, it's more important than ever to make sure your blog is using material properly.

For now, most material is covered by Fair Use rights for the 'fair use' of the copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law, which contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, research and so on.

Yet, Fair Use rights only go so far. To make sure you're playing buying the rules and avoid any takedown demands, it's best to stick to a few simple guidelines:

Basic rules to not infringe on Copyrights

Excerpts Only: The most recent court rulings show that you’re allowed to post a few paragraphs of any article that you don’t have permission to post in full. Examples would be posting the first few paragraphs of an Associated Press story with a link to read the full original or using excerpts from mainstream media sources within an original article. You may also consider a direct link widget where you put links to other articles relevant to your subject.

Attribution: You must always include the author’s name and the name of the source of the material with a link to the original post or homepage of the source even when only using excerpts.

Internal Links: You must maintain all internal embedded links that appear in the original article unless you get permission from the content owner to post without the links.

Video: The general rule for videos is if the video allows for embedding, it’s covered under “Fair Use” rights. To avoid any animosity, always be sure to include a link to the source of the video and any promotional links to the content producer like their website or Twitter and Facebook links. If the video uploader infringed on Copyrights, it's currently their responsibility to rectify it, not the blogger who embedded it on their site.

Images: Only use images that you have express permission to use, or Public Domain or Creative Commons images. More on where to find these below...

Copyright-Free Content

There are several places to find Copyright-free content for your blog.

Articles that you can republish in full can be found at many different sources in the Public Domain. Press releases are the most commonly republished material. You can find these at and other press release outlets. Or, perhaps even better, identify non-profit organizations (usually .org's) related to your niche and subscribe to their "News Release" sections.

Another place to find interesting press releases is through university websites (.edu's). Colleges engage in many studies that may be related to your topic and when they release results they make for compelling posts on your blog. Remember, when posting press releases in full to maintain internal links and include a link to the original at the bottom of your version.

All (not classified) government releases are also available for you to republish. So pretty much any materially available on a ".gov" website is okay to post. This would include White House or State Department press releases, or anything from or any other governmental agency. It also includes any press releases from individual lawmakers.

Creative Commons Content 

There is a slight difference between Public Domain and Creative Commons content. First, know that you may post the entire story or use images labeled as either. Public domain stories are anything that you would find on a .gov website that was publicly-funded and published by the government. Additionally, press releases are also public domain for general use as noted above.

A Creative Commons license means that you may repost the content in full, but must include the author’s name, the organization’s name, and a link to the original source. Most non-profit organizations, usually identified with a .org web address, allow sharing of the material in full under a Creative Commons license. Many of them won’t protest if you add a reminder to support them with a link to their donate page at the end of the article as well.

Just think about how you want your material presented on other websites and give the same treatment to everything you post. If it is not clear whether you’re allowed to repost or not, it’s best to email them for permission.

Creative Commons Photos: To avoid any Copyright issues with photos, only use your personal photos, or images collected from Creative Commons galleries. Two popular websites to harvest free images is Wikimedia Commons and Flickr Creative Commons.

Videos: Almost all videos offer embedding to blogs. Even major news services now allow this as they advertise directly in the videos and encourage bloggers to use them to increase view counts. Videos are a great way to spice up your blog and add variety to the commentary, so use them often. Tip for finding videos on Youtube: Subscribe to all of your favorite channels related to your topic and check your Youtube feed everyday for new material.

Pay For Content 

There are many content creators that offer subscriptions to use their content. The most well-known sources are major news publishers like Associated Press, Reuters, or Agence France-Presse (AFP). Each of these agencies offers different packages for varying topics and use of images. They can be quite expensive, so they are only typically worth the money if your blog site is drawing enough traffic to warrant their benefits. You can expect to pay a minimum of $200-$500 per month for select news feeds from these sources.

But there are also affordable options to buy Private Label Rights (PLR) articles individually or in bulk. These articles are written by freelancers who allow you to change, edit, use, or sell them for nearly any purpose except as a re-branded PLR article. Most of the websites that offer PLR material require memberships whose fees can range from $20-$60 per month which gets you access to tons of material. Some sell articles, special reports, and ebooks are offered individually.

There are also blogging/freelance networks like which is a community of writers bidding on assignments or uploading original material for sale to busy blogs that always need new material.

For photos, there are also many licensed photo websites that offer subscriptions or à la carte purchases. These also can get expensive depending on how many images you use. Search the different options based on your specific needs and affordability; but iStock Photos seems to be the most affordable and has the best selection.

Copyright and Ad Disclaimers 

Finally, it’s smart to have some minimal disclaimers on your blog for your Ads and to cover your potential use of copyrighted content. You should probably consider more in depth disclaimers if you’re offering expert advice on any subject. Contact a lawyer friend, or search for examples of more detailed disclaimers in if you feel that it's necessary.

Below are basic examples of general disclaimers for advertising and fair use:

AD DISCLAIMER (sample): Paid advertising on this blog may not represent the views and opinions of this website and its contributors. No endorsement of products and services advertised is either expressed or implied.

FAIR USE NOTICE (sample): Some stories on this site may contain copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making this material available in an effort to advance the understanding of ‘issues related to your topic’. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of the copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law which contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

J.P. Hicks is an entrepreneur, pro blogger, editor of and author of Secrets to Making Money with a Free Blog. Follow @ Twitter, or like on Facebook and get the FREE ebook SEO For Bloggers.

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