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Blog contribution

Posted: Thu Mar 29, 2012 5:03 pm
by blogger
This is my second attempt at posting, I apologise if I've managed to duplicate posts.

Hi, I hope you can help and that this doesn't seem too trivial to you!

Around 9 months ago I was asked by a friend from a forum if I'd like to be a contributer on her website. The website uses blogging software to publish reviews of certain products. I have been contributing content to the blog since then, always published under my first name, not under a generic 'site' name. I have not been paid for anything, it is a voluntary role. However, I have used my site email address to approach companies requesting sample products and have received several freebies to review. My friend has also passed on freebies (directly from the manufacturers, not bought by her) that I have reviewed and kept. At no point have we ever discussed copyright of the content I submit to the site. I have never agreed to any T&Cs and there are none that I can find anywhere on the site, either for readers or contributers.

I would now like to use the content I have written myself and create my own review blog, but I am unsure about who owns it. Am I right to think that I retain copyright of the actual words but that I have given her the right to publish them, so I can also publish them myself in whatever form I want? I don't want her to take my reviews off her site, I just want to also use them on mine (I will adapt them slightly as I do not wish to use her standard review format). I'm not sure whether the freebies would count as a form of payment which would make me an employee, or whether they are irrelevant. If they do matter and make me an employee, would I retain copyright on reviews that I did not receive a freebie for, or would a couple of freebies mean that I was 'employed' for all 60+ reviews?

To slightly complicate things, the forum we met on is also owned by the same friend. Before becoming a contributer on her blog, I posted several reviews on the forum. The T&Cs of the forum state:
In registering and posting you grant [forum name] permanent, binding, unlimited, and non-exclusive rights to edit, copy, delete, display or otherwise share any content that you provide to us, here, at [forum name].
She published those reviews on her blog later. Does the 'non-exclusive rights' part mean that I am still ok to republish them elsewhere, or does the forum own those reviews?

I'm sorry this was so long!

Thank you.

Posted: Thu Mar 29, 2012 5:57 pm
by AndyJ
Hi Blogger,
I think this is very straightforward. You categorically own the copyright in what you have written, and as you say, the blog owner is merely acting as a publisher of your work (with your implicit permission for her to use your copyright work), but without any bar on you re-publishing your work elsewhere in whatever form you wish.
This is effectively what the forum t&cs you quote are saying. The 'non-exclusive' bit means that whilst the forum owner has a licence to use your contribution (and edit, copy, display etc your work) but because the licence is not exclusive you retain the right either to publish your work elsewhere or to license others to do so.
To fall into the category of employee you would need to have had a contract of employment (verbal or written) and your then employer would normally be paying NI contributions etc on your behalf, so clearly the 'payments' in kind that you may have received fall far short of that. At best your situation might be described as freelance, although I suspect it is actually even less formal than that as you are not being paid for your contributions.
Good luck with your venture.

Posted: Thu Mar 29, 2012 7:47 pm
by blogger
Thanks so much, you're incredibly helpful!