Content ownership is a big deal for bloggers and online entrepreneurs, since we make money off of the things we write.
When you own a blog or website, you want to do everything possible to protect your content from theft and violations of your copyright and intellectual property protections.
So, one of the first things you hear in the online business world is that WordPress.com is bad because if you blog there, “WordPress owns your content.”
I’ve seen some pretty big websites perpetuating this idea and talking about how, if you want to protect your intellectual property, you “need” to have a self hosted website.
It’s not true. At all.
As an author and an artist, I have a vested interest in understanding copyright and intellectual property laws. I’ve studied them since the 90s, and I’ve even written a guidebook for creatives about how to protect their intellectual property online. I ran my author blog on WordPress.com for four years. I’ve posted essays and articles there and on other WordPress.com websites. I own the copyright on all of my content, whether it’s on WordPress.com or not.
WordPress does not own your content. If you live in the United States and you create an original work of fiction or nonfiction, you automatically hold the copyright on that piece of writing. Most other countries have similar laws regarding copyright and ownership of intellectual property.
When you publish something on WordPress.com, you’re granting WordPress a nonexclusive license to distribute the content with the express and sole purpose of promoting your blog.
The word “license” means that your giving someone permission to use the content. You’re not giving away your ownership of it.
The word “nonexclusive” means that WordPress has no ownship of the content and you can give anyone else permission to distribute it if you want to.
As the author of your blog, you have the right to decide who can and can’t profit from your work. WordPress or Automatic can’t take your content and sell it for profit or do anything with it other than promote your blog.
In fact, here’s an article by Jonathan Bailey of Plagiarism Today,/ about protecting your intellectual property on WordPress.com. The article is hosted by well known blogger, WordPress consultant, and author Lorelle VanFossen. Lorelle blogs about WordPress.com on a free WordPress.com website. If you scroll through the comments, Lorelle advises one reader to:
Make sure your own copyright policy is clearly stated and visible, and links to your full copyright policy. What is your policy? Have you clearly spelled out what your terms and conditions are for usage of your content within Fair Use?
Then use Google Alerts or the many tools featured on Jonathan Bailey of Plagiarism Today that work without being WordPress Plugins. They are web-based or downloadable programs.
Also use trackbacks, which are built-in by default to WordPress. Put links in your content to other articles on your site, or even to that article if you are really worried. Anyone grabbing your content will automatically create a trackback to that post that shows up in the comments. Instantly you know if someone is using your content. You can check it out and determine if they have used it fairly or not. Then take action accordingly. I do that daily. Most of the time, a comment asking them to remove the content or change it to something within my copyright Fair Use policy resolves the issue.
None of that would be necessary if WordPress “owned” your content, and the WordPress TOS states that they do not.
There are some concerning elements in the WordPress.com terms of service regarding permission to modify your content when they redistribute, and permission to share the content with third parties for analysis. it’s up to you to determine whether and how much that matters to you.
If you’re planning to sell your blog content as an e-book or in some other format, it’s in your best interest to remove the original content from your blog and only share an excerpt. That’s because a publisher wants to ensure that people can only get the content by paying for it. However, that would be true whether you own a self hosted blog or a WordPress.com blog.