Share your knowledge. It’s a way to achieve immortality.


Dalai Lama


In the age of social media and use of online platforms, blogging has proved to be a trail blazer. It has not only expanded the creative industry, but also created jobs for many people and expanded businesses for many companies. A blog is a website containing a writer’s or group of writers’ own experiences, observations, opinions, etc.[1]; this is often represented in words coupled up with images. The content in blogs thus attract intellectual property rights, in the form of copyright. This is because their subject matter are works that are eligible for copyright protection.[2]

In this piece we will look at licensing of the content of blogs and what an entrant blogger should look out for and consider when starting their blog.

What is licensing?

Licensing is the granting of formal permission for one to use something belonging to another without violating their rights.[3] In this case, an owner of a work(s) grants a third party the right to use their work(s) under defined terms and conditions.

As expressed above, a blogger acquires Copyright protection for their work. Copyrights are a bundle of rights that are enforceable against third parties. These rights allow the author and/or owner of a work to control the reproduction, translation or adaptation, distribution to the public, communication to the public, making available to the public and broadcasting of their work. [4] Licensing thus permits the execution of any of these rights or a combination thereof by a third party and it not amount to copyright infringement. The license defines what rights a third party can exploit and use.

It is worth noting that, under licensing there exists the concepts of ‘licensing- in’ and ‘licensing-out’. Licensing-in refers to when one wants to use another company’s IP to develop their own business and products.[5] In this instance, an individual or firm acquires the IP of another for the benefit of their entity or IP. A blogger could consider executing such a license in order to boost their site. For example, an entrant blogger could partner with either a much more established blogger or content creator and license-in some of their work(s), with the aim of establishing and reaching out to a specific target audience.

On the other hand, licensing-out refers to when one offers  their IP to another entity or individual in return for a reward or financial benefit.[6] However, it is not always for economic gain.[7] For such a license, an entrant blogger can receive exposure as a result of opening up their work for contribution and enhancement. This piece will dwell heavily on licensing-out.

How can I license my work?

A blogger can include in their own drawn up website terms of use and disclaimers as pertaining to their content; detailing what visitors can and cannot do with the information they get from their site. This option would be best suited for bloggers who self-host their sites.[8]

However, there are those who use other hosting platforms, such as WordPress. For such platforms, they have terms and conditions including clauses on licensing, which their users must oblige to.(example here)

Even with the above, many bloggers and online content creators[9] opt for Creative Commons licenses. Creative Commons is a long-standing copyright licensing service that operates on the internet.[10] They, Creative Commons, work to ensure that no content gets plagiarized or misused without the knowledge of the original owner.[11] There are six creative commons license which a user can choose from. These include;[12]

  • Attribution (CC BY) – This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon another’s work, even commercially, as long as they credit the  the original creation.
  • Attribution ShareAlike (CC BY-SA) –   This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon another’s work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit them and license the newly created work under the identical terms.       
  • Attribution-NoDerivs (CC BY-ND) – This license lets others reuse another’s work for any purpose, including commercial purposes; however, it cannot be shared with others in adapted form, and credit must be provided to the owner of the work or from whom it was gotten.
  • Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC) – This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon another’s work non-commercially, and although the new works must also acknowledge the initial owner’s work and be non-commercial, the derived works need not be licensed on the same terms.
  • Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA) – This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon another’s work non-commercially, as long as they credit them and license the new created work under the identical terms.
  • Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND) – This license is the most restrictive of our six main licenses, only allowing others to download another’s works and share them with others as long as they credit them, but they can’t change the works in any way or use the works commercially.

Many consider Creative Commons licenses to be ideal as they make it easier for content creators to share their works with customized permissions.[13]

Enforcement of licenses

This refers to the process of ensuring compliance with the terms of a license. A blogger or the owner of the respective content of a blog can do this through the judicial system and/or through withdrawal of the license in which the terms of exploitation are granted. Under the judicial system, a blogger or owner content in a blog can apply to the High Court for the grant of an injunction, under section 35D of the Copyright Act No. 12 of 2001 (amended in 2019). An injunction is a court order that requires one to either do or stop doing a certain action.[14] In seeking an injunction, a blogger would essentially require the third party to stop infringing on their rights.

In addition, a blogger can opt to withdraw the license between them and the third party where the third party fails to adhere to the terms of the license. This would mean that the third party, who had been granted permission to exploit the rights of the blogger would lose those privileges. As such, this position should be expressly stated in the terms of service for the avoidance of doubt.

With regard to enforceability of a Creative Commons license, they are drafted to be enforceable around the world, and have been enforced in court in various jurisdictions.[15] Moreover, the licenses contain a “severability” clause, which allows the court to do away with terms that maybe unenforceable and enforce those that can be enforced.[16]


As a blogger licensing is not mandatory, but advisable. Keep in mind that as an entrant blogger, it is important to protect your work and consider the rights you are willing to give up when it comes to sharing that work and opening it up to the public. Licensing is a good way of still exercising some level of control over the rights that attach to your work while still allowing for others to positively exploit, contribute and add on to it.


[2] The Copyright Act No. 12 of 2001 (as amended in 2019), provides a list of works eligible for copyright protection; literary works form part of such works (section 2)


[4] Section 26, Copyright Act No. 12 of 2001 (as amended in 2019);





[9] Minjeong Kim, The Creative Commons and Copyright Protection in the Digital Era: Uses of Creative Commons Licenses, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Volume 13, Issue 1, 1 October 2007, Pages 187–209,










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