Guest Author - Violette DeSantis
“Who owns your blog?” is a question every blogger should know the answer to. It is well worth your while to read the Terms of Service (TOS) for every service you sign up with because it could save you heartache and grief in the end.
A common problem among free blog hosting services is that while you may own your content, you could very well run into the problem of having the hosting service remove partial content or shut down your blog on the erroneous word of others. Sometimes it is likely to have your blog reported due to no human error at all. Technology could assess your blog and make an erroneous assumption to your blog’s content or purpose of its content and report or shut you down automatically.
May 2012, a group blog on Google’s Blogger platform has numerous posts removed from various authors because one author in the group has the same first name as the singer Adele. Their content was removed without an investigation leaving the responsibility up to the authors to file a counter notice to reinstate content that was removed in error because of a claim made by Sony that the blog infringed on their copyright.
This is not uncommon. There seems to be no pattern determining who gets the benefit of the doubt. Why not investigate before removing the content? Are investigations not considered when profitable companies are involved?
To ensure you understand what rights you have, read the Terms of Service of your blog hosting company, especially if it is a free service. In particular users of Google’s Blogger and the company WordPress.com should take notice that while you may own your content (even if the service has the right to shut down your blog), they have license to use your content.
“When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This license continues even if you stop using our Services…”
From: Your Content in our Services of Google Terms of Service (March 1, 2012)
If giving up rights were not bad enough, here is what you can be reported for on Google's Blogger:
Other users can report malware, phishing, disclosure of private data or similar issues; can report they have found content that may violate their copyright; report they have a court order declaring certain content unlawful (e.g., pursuant to a copyright or trademark infringement suit); report a product or service that circumvents copyright protection mechanisms, report they have found content that may be defamation/libel; or report the sale or promotion of counterfeit goods.
Users who have been reported also can indicate they would like to file a counter notice to reinstate content that was removed due to an alleged copyright violation.
Be proactive in knowing your rights with any free or paid service. Read the TOS of your blog hosting company today.
One final word of advice is back up your content regularly to protect it.