The world wide web has made it possible for anyone with internet access to set up a blog and start posting about anything that is on their mind. From their latest baking and craft successes to comment on current affairs and the weekend’s football; bloggers can voice their thoughts on anything. But, sometimes they must do so with caution.
There is much debate on press regulation at the moment, and this brings concerns that bloggers may too be subjects to new laws and restrictions on what they can, and cannot, publish. This means that many who write and publish on the internet are considering what they can do to ensure they do not fall foul of the rules.
Whatever happens in terms of regulations there are some basic principles of writing that should be adhered to no matter what. And the use of sources is one of them.
Now that we have access to information from all over the world from all sorts of different news outlets and other organisations it can be difficult to determine where an idea, quote or story originally came from. Quoting your sources is an important method of giving credit where it is due. It will not necessarily give automatic protection if what you write is defamatory, but it will do several things for your blog’s reputation.
Citing your sources of information can add credibility. If what you are writing is likely to be doubted you can assure readers that what you are saying is true by linking back to the original source. So, if you suggest that nine out of ten people prefer cats to dogs, link to a national survey of pet owners that shows there are more felines to canines in UK homes. Wikipedia is not necessarily a credible site. By its nature it can be amended by anyone, so the information is not automatically accurate
Verifying facts and comments
Similarly, giving your source can allow you to verify facts. If a quote from a local MP has been published by a range of different, and independent, news providers it is likely to be a true statement. Press releases are a good source for quotes and comments.
Linking back to an original source can also offer protection. Original work will remain the copyright of the author, so you cannot simply reproduce it on your own blog. You must show where it came from to avoid being accused of plagiarism. So if one newspaper has an exclusive you must not then write the same story and present it as your own scoop.
Fair use is a grey area of copyright law. To reuse someone’s original work for criticism, comment, teaching or research then you do not always have to have permission. Ask yourself if a reader could realistically think that the bones of the piece (the facts, findings, quotes, comments etc) are your own work. If you do not make it clear that you found the information elsewhere and are simply presenting your take on it you could land yourself in trouble.