Why I Was Threatened With Legal Action After Reblogging On WordPress – A True Story And Guest Post by Deborah Jay @DeborahJay2

If you’re a blogger who has used or still uses the reblog button to share other bloggers’ posts, I urge you to read this post.

Likewise, if you use photos or images in your own posts that are not your own or do not come from a genuine website that offers free images and photos, this post is a must-read.

Early 2021, during the lockdown, I had a nasty shock.

For me, the lockdown was terrific – I live in a farmhouse in the Scottish Highlands with gorgeous gardens, have a horse and a pack of rescue dogs, and for once, I could legitimately stay at home and not travel for work. This also allowed me to sit and write without feeling like I was short-changing some other part of my life.

What I had not expected, however, was to receive an email from a law firm accusing me of copyright infringement on a photograph I’d displayed on my blog back in my earliest blogging days, somewhere around 2013.

To add insult to injury, it wasn’t even a blog post I’d put together myself, but a collection of inspirational photos on a friend’s blog, which I’d reblogged! 

I shared her post using the WordPress ‘Reblog’ button, and, as you may know, the post appears on your blog with a link to the original for anyone wanting to see more.

I had NO idea (this was quite early in my blogging career); this meant that ALL the photographs in that post were downloaded and stored in my own media library. The fact they were downloaded, even without my knowledge, became a potential legal problem.

If this happens to you, DO NOT ignore it.

The ‘Cease and Desist’ email came from an Italian law firm. Their client, the photographer, is based in the UK, as am I. It detailed the blog post and the specific photograph and demanded £1045.00 compensation for using the picture without obtaining a licence. This was justified as:

  • £195 financial loss (£39 per year for the licence)
  • £150 damages for flagrancy (putting the photographer at increased risk of having the photo stolen/used without obtaining a licence)
  • £100 damages for negative financial consequences
  • £150 for the absence of picture credit
  • £50 damages for moral prejudice
  • £100 damages for consequential losses
  • £100 damages for devaluing the image
  • £200 lawyers’ fees

Scary, huh?

This was what I did:

  • The first step was to check that the law firm existed, looking up their website and digging a little on Google. Sadly, for me, it was legit.
  • Then I looked at the photographer’s site to find the photo. Yes, it was there, along with the price for an annual licence, as detailed in the legal letter.
  • So, having established that I had indeed violated copyright, although unwittingly, I checked my own post. As a reblog, I could only see the first picture, which wasn’t the one in dispute. I replied to the lawyer, asking for a screenshot of the image displayed on my site. To my shock, an image of the entire post came back, with all the photos in evidence displayed on my blog. I still don’t know how this is possible, but I couldn’t argue because they had the screenshot. 
  • I removed the post from my site and also delved into my media library, which is when I discovered to my shock, that all the pictures from the post were stored there. I deleted them all, just in case.
  • I contacted the original blogger and advised her to delete it, which she did. The last thing I wanted was for them to go after her too.
  • The next step was to contact the lawyer again and point out I was not the original poster, explaining it was a reblog of someone else’s post. 
  • They replied that while they would consider this, I was still held responsible because the image had been displayed on my site. They dropped the proposed settlement to £800 and gave me 10 days to pay up.
  • I contacted another lawyer for advice. Her answer was: ‘If you did not download it and post it on your site, then you did not copy it. I would argue that re-posting or embedding is not copying because the image is hosted elsewhere and therefore cannot be copyright infringement.’ Note that last bit? Unfortunately, the way WordPress works, the photo had been downloaded and hosted on my own site, even though I hadn’t known it, so this didn’t help me.
  • I went back to the Italian lawyer and again stressed that I was not the person who had chosen to use the image. I felt they were being unfair coming after me and not the original poster (which is why I’d given her the heads-up first and ensured she’d removed all traces from her site before typing this message). 
  • By now, this had gone on for 6 weeks, with me leaving it almost to the stipulated 10-day deadline when I replied to the lawyer. I never once refused to pay them, but I did not offer to do so or haggle about the sum. I spent more time researching potential help from legal groups, but…
  • Nearly a year on, and I’ve not heard from them again! This sounds fairly simple, but believe me, it was time consuming and stressful experience.

I understand from years ago, mainly when posting paper letters, that sometimes the answer to such events is to continue corresponding. Never offer anything, but keep querying small details and spread them out as long as possible. If nothing else, you may get a reduction (as I did) in the sum they demand.

I was lucky; I know others who have had to pay up. In this case, they apparently wrote me off as too much bother to pursue. 

If you should be unfortunate enough to have this happen to you, the most important things are: 

  1. Don’t ignore it – that has the potential to be very expensive.
  2. Don’t pay up straight away – always investigate your options.

Deborah Jay writes fantasy and urban fantasy featuring complex, quirky characters and multi-layered plots – just what she likes to read.

Fortunate enough to live not far from Loch Ness in the majestic, mystery-filled Scottish Highlands with her partner and a pack of rescue dogs, she can often be found lurking in secluded glens and forests, researching locations for her books.

Her first published novel, epic fantasy, THE PRINCE’S MAN, won a UK Arts Council award and debuted as an Amazon Hot 100 New Release.

Photo of author, writer and blogger Deborah Jay

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Important Reminders About Reblogging from Hugh

Reblogging saves many bloggers time. It’s quick to do and can result in more visits and comments to the reblogged post.

It’s also a safe option but only when used correctly. Here are several points to consider and note if you intend to reblog another blogger’s post or have ever reblogged another blogger’s post.

  • If you reblog or have reblogged the blog posts of other bloggers, any images, videos or photos in those posts will have been downloaded into your WordPress media library. You could, therefore, have downloaded illegal images or photos and images that are copyrighted.
  • Check the small print – Some photos, images, and pictures may have a limited time that they’re free to use. After that, you could face a fine if they remain on your blog or in your media library.
  • Consider other options for sharing blog posts where images and photos are not downloaded to your blog. The ‘Press This’ sharing button is a good option, as no images and photos are downloaded to your media library.
  • Another option instead of reblogging is to write and publish a post that includes pingback links to blog posts you want to share. Blogger Sally Cronin does this with her ‘Blogger Weekly‘ feature.
  • If you run a blogging challenge where you reblog posts from participants, consider adding links to those posts in your blog post or in a new blog post rather than reblogging them. Blogger Terri Webster Schrandt does this in her Sunday Stills photography challenge.
  • If you’re unsure that any content in a blog post you want to share is not free to download or use, don’t reblog the post.
  • Don’t think that what happened to Deborah won’t happen to you. It can!
  • If you believe you may have reblogged posts that have images or photos that are copyrighted or not free to download and use, delete the posts immediately.
  • After deleting posts, remember to remove any images and photos that appeared on the reblog from your WordPress media library, as deleting the post does not delete them.
  • Remember that copyright laws can also apply to lyrics, artwork, drawings and text.

WordPress offers users hundreds of free images and photos.

If you’re not convinced by Deborah’s experience of copyright infringement, then read Debby Kaye’s post here about a copyright experience she had where she was fined for reblogging a post that contained an image that was copyright protected.

If you have any questions about Deborah’s experience or about reblogging, leave them in the comments section. Deborah and I will try and answer them, although we cannot offer any legal advice.

Follow Hugh on Social Media. Click the buttons below.

Not sure it’s free? Then don’t reblog, copy or download it.

I thank Deborah for sharing her true story about the perils of reblogging with us and for allowing me to publish it on my blog.

Do you have any experience of being fined for copyright infringement?

Copyright © 2022 hughsviewsandnews.com – All rights reserved.

171 thoughts on “Why I Was Threatened With Legal Action After Reblogging On WordPress – A True Story And Guest Post by Deborah Jay @DeborahJay2

  1. I am revisiting this from Hugh’s post this week. I know there’s a statute of limitations on copyright infringement of 3 years, but there are ways around that. Still, I wonder if that’s why this lawyer dropped what was turning into a difficult case.

      1. I’ve always been careful with images, Hugh. I learned that when I was working for the Education Department. There are a lot of sites where it’s possible to obtain CCO images. If I can’t get something suitable there, I go without, but using one’s own when possible is best. I hadn’t thought about the reblogging issue so was pleased to read about it and be forewarned.

        1. The reblog issue is a worrying one, though. I don’t think many bloggers even think of the consequences of reblogging a post that contains a copyrighted image, Norah. It probably never crosses their mind. And I hear of so many bloggers who think it’ll never happen to them. But as Deborah’s story proves, it can happen to anyone of us.

        2. That’s so true, Hugh. I’ll be more careful in the future. Not that I do a lot of reblogging. I’ll have to check with Charli at the CR about her images. 🙂

  2. Good to know Hugh. I create all of my own blog content, so free from this. If I do share blog content from others, I simply retweet their blog posts or link to their posts to give them credit but to avoid any legal entanglements.

    1. Sharing via social media is certainly a far safer option as all we’re doing is sharing a link to the content and not downloading it, Ryan.

      Good to hear that this is something you’re already doing.

        1. I would hate for it to happen to anyone else, so thank you to Hugh for suggesting I write it up as a guest post for his blog where plenty of people get to see it.

  3. Excellent share and cautionary tale…I don’t reblog but post links directly to a bloggers post although I have in the past and will do a little housekeeping…Thank you Deborah and Hugh for the heads up 🙂

    1. Good to hear you no longer use the reblog button, Carol. Doing some housekeeping and getting rid of any images, posts and photos on your blog that you’re not sure cause copyright infringement is a piece of housekeeping that I recommend all bloggers do.

        1. Given the post Deborah wrote about reblogging was from 2013, those images and photos could be buried deep, Carol. But, yes, it’ll be worthwhile, if only for freeing up space in your media library.

  4. I’m going to cruise through my media library and delete any reblogged photos that don’t explicitly indicate their origins. Especially since I just did a bunch of reblog! Thanks for the important reminder, Hugh and Deborah. It’s always welcome.

    1. Deborah’s experience of reblogging a post that contained an image that was copyrighted is one that all bloggers should note, Diana.

      I stopped using the reblog button years ago after hearing of Debby Kay’s experience of being fined for reblogging a post with a copyrighted image. Deleting any posts and images from our blogs that we’ve shared but which we can not guarantee are copyrighted is something I recommend we all do.

      I see the reblog button as a redundant feature, given that there are many safer ways to share the posts of other bloggers where copyright infringement is not an issue.

      1. I was telling Deborah that I went through my media libraray yesterday after seeing the post, and anything that I wasn’t certain about, I deleted. Now, I just have to revisit my posts to see the damage and make fixes, but I feel a lot better. It was time. I’ll still reblog, but I’m going to be a lot more careful about what is coming over, and if I’m not sure, I’ll set up the share without reblogging. Thanks to you and Deborah for the valuable guidance!

        1. Good to hear you have actually started the job of deleting images and photos you weren’t sure about, Diana. Many other bloggers have told me the same, so it looks as if Deborah’s post has acted as a great reminder and incentive to get the work done. No doubt we’ll all be careful what we share in the future.

  5. Thanks for sharing this interesting and very useful article. Oh yes, these are experiences nobody wants to get. As working half time as a journalist, i normally only get warning of people doesnt want uncovered her mostly illegal practices. Lol Okay, thats in the portfolio of investigation, but getting warnings after only reblogged an article is not really fair. ;-/ I will share your experiences with others, to keep them away from this. xx Michael

    1. Thank you for reblogging and sharing Deborah’s guest post, Michael.

      I’m not sure why WordPress deemed your reblog and comment as spam, but I’m glad I check the spam folder often.

      Have a good week.

  6. This is a cautionary tale indeed Hugh, thanks so much for bringing it to our attention. I remember reading about Debby’s issues too. Like you and others i no longer use the reblog button preferring to use PressThis or simply link to posts within my own. Always helpful info!

    1. My thanks to Deborah for agreeing to share her story on my blog, Debbie.

      You’re definitely doing the right thing and protecting yourself by using ‘Press This’ or creating pingbacks to posts you want to share with your readers.

  7. Hughs,
    I believe that this can happen to anyone. When we all begun this online/internet/blogging business, who ever knew that this would ever happen?
    Today, there are lots of smart tech that can sniff out anything – so going forward, every business owner online has to be careful. Copyright infringement happens day-in day-out, you just have to listen to the horrible stories of those in the NFT space.
    It’s a great lesson that you have shared with us.
    Meanwhile, isn’t ‘re-blogging’ is synonymous to ‘Hughs’?’ ☺️
    Always grateful for the tips that you share – followed this post fro Senior Salon Pit Stop.
    H Emma

    1. Sharing Deborah’s story will make those who read it think twice about what they share and download onto their blogs, Hazlo. In most cases, I think bloggers don’t have anything to concern themselves with, but the reblog button has always been tricky not only because of what you may be downloading onto your blog but also because of the space those images and photos take up.

      I hear a lot of bloggers who say, ‘it won’t happen to me,’ but as Deborah has confirmed, it can happen to anyone of us.

      Thank you for coming over from the Senior Salon/Pitsop blog share party.

      1. I’d been reblogging for years when this happened, and I’ve been back through all my posts and media library without finding anything else to worry about, but it did allow me to delete tons of out of date posts I’d not realised were clogging up space!

  8. 🤔 If reblogging, on the whole, has the potential of landing a blogger into legal trouble, WordPress should do away with the “Reblog” button.

    On a positive note, I never reblogged anyone’s blog post on WordPress.

    1. I don’t use the reblog button, Renard, but I understand why some still use it. However, many users need to be more alert and ask themselves questions when using it. Although WordPress provide it, it is up to the user to ensure they’re not doing anything illegal when using it. I think that goes for the whole WordPress platform.

      Deborah’s story certainly had me checking no illegal images were lurking in my media library.

  9. Excellent share Deb and Hugh. As one who learned this about 7 years ago, ( I too posted about it), I NEVER reblog since. The exact same thing happened to me unknowingly. I use ‘press this’, which bring the link to the post I want to share over to my drafts and then I copy and paste what I want from that post onto a new post WITHOUT any images, unless I know the blogger well and know that they use their own photos. Hugs xx

    1. I linked to the post you wrote and published in 2015, Debby. Hope the pingback worked?

      I remember reading that post a lot, especially when looking for images for blog posts, although I now only ever use my own or the free ones WordPress or Pixabay offer.

      Over the last few days, I’ve also deleted over 500 images from my WordPress media library, many of which I wasn’t sure about. Some, though, were from posts I’d already deleted as a part of a general blog cleaning exercise.

      Likewise, I no longer use the reblog button, preferring to use ‘Press This.’

      1. Thanks so much Hugh. It’s always worthy repeating these types of posts for those bloggers who have missed them to help avoid them getting caught in this unintentional copyright web. ❤

        1. I hope so, Debby. I get so many bloggers saying to me – ‘it won’t happen to me and my little blog…’, but of course, it can.

          Glad the pingback worked.

        2. Hi Janice! Great to hear from you. No, this is Hugh’s post, sharing Deborah Jay’s experience. I wrote about this incidence a few years back and Hugh linked to it. Hugs to you ❤

    1. I don’t think for one minute that the solicitor’s persuing Deborah was a scam company, but I can see how many people could fall for such a scam, especially if they pay up straight away.

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