How to Blog, Write, and Speak With Integrity

Here’s a quick tutorial for how to blog, write, preach, or teach with integrity.

Let’s say you’ve came across a blog post on Adam McLane’s blog that you really enjoy. In particular, you like something I’ve written to the point where it has inspired you to write your own blog post, magazine article, book, lesson plan, or sermon based off of the thoughts you had in reading my post.

For example, let’s say you read my post The Personal Preference Sin:

I’d like to talk to some people about a rabid sin running rampant and unchecked throughout the American Evangelical church. Maybe if you’re reading this today I’m meant to talk to you. This is, I believe, one of Satan’s most powerful devices for separating our people. And yet, this sin runs so deep and is so approved that it carries back to some things we hold sacred such as denominations… probably 50% of non-denominational churches founded in the past century are the result of this sin.

That sin is personal preference.

I love that post, too. It’s one of the most popular things I’ve ever written.

It’s been quoted, remixed, preached on, etc. Which is all awesome and humbling.

Now, how do you handle my intellectual property in a way that both you and I can be satisfied with?

And how do you handle it if you’ve been paid to write, teach, or speak and you’d like to use something I’ve written?

For blogs: (easy, peasy)

  • Do: Mention in the post where the idea for the blog post came from. “I was reading Adam McLane’s blog yesterday, and I came across this statement that I’ve been thinking about.” Or find a phrase to link to like, “That sin is personal preference.” Or even “HT to Adam McLane” with a link.
  • Do: Link to the original post, this helps your reader know how to find the source. And it helps my blog’s page rank with the search engines.
  • Do: Feel free to link directly to my post for whatever reason you’d like. You don’t have to ask permission for that. That’s awesome, thank you.
  • Do: Feel free to write a response or debate my posts. Just link to the source.
  • Don’t: Beat around the bush. It’s not fair to me for you to use my ideas/thoughts/words and not mention my name and link to me as the source. Don’t say, “a blog I read said…” or “a friend of mine recently wrote.” That’s not fair and it lacks integrity.
  • Don’t: Write the post without linking to me in the post or mentioning me and then privately email me a link thinking I’ll somehow be flattered. I don’t want to be a jerk, but if you use my thoughts as your own so that you can look good I don’t find it flattering. I think you’re a thief.
  • Don’t: Worry about any advertising revenue your post makes. As long as you properly cite my work for your blog, I don’t care that you make money.

For magazine articles & books: (not as easy)

  • Do: Mention my name and properly attribute my blog in the work.
  • Do: Ask me what I think about the idea before you submit it to your publisher as a remix. I have a contact page, I’m pretty easy to work with. I’m not trying to be a jerk, at all, I’m just trying to make sure that if you use my idea to make money, that I’m properly attributed and/or compensated.
  • Do: Allow me to have a look at what you are saying about me, my blog post, etc. before you submit it.
  • Do: Ask me in a way where it’s OK if I say no. Chances are pretty good we can work it out. But it might be that I need to say no and it’s helpful if I’m being asked to know that I won’t be seen as a turd if I say no.
  • Do: Spell my name correctly, that’s a pet peeve.
  • Do: Expect that if you are going to treat me like a ghost writer for work you intend to publish for profit, that I will expect some level of compensation. That’s only fair.
  • Don’t: Think you are going to get away with it because we don’t know one another or you think your sphere of influence and mine don’t intersect. It’s embarrassing for everyone when I get a Facebook message from someone who read something that sounded just like a blog post of mine in a denominations magazine or something like that.
  • Don’t: Pull the “it’s Kingdom property” line on me or “there’s no new ideas out there.” Particularly if you are going to get paid for work you forgot to attribute to me. We all learned in middle school that plagiarism is wrong. I’m not out to make money on my blog (notice there are not ads) but I’m also not out to make money for someone else. If I write something and then two months later the exact same idea and outline is in a magazine, that’s not a coincidence.
  • Don’t: Assume that because this is a public blog that this is somehow public property and you can just harvest my ideas, change some words around, and then sell it.

For lessons, sermons, and classes: (easy, peasy)

  • Do: Acknowledge my work. If you publish your notes, just attribute my work like any other book or website.
  • Do: Proceed without asking. As long as you aren’t pushing off my work as your own, we’re cool.
  • Do: Share with me your notes, how it went, etc. I’d love to see how you turned a blog post into something else. Maybe we can even agree to put it in the free downloads section of my blog?
  • Do: Feel free to print off a blog post to share, just attribute the URL so that people can know where to find me.
  • Do: Contact me if this is going to be a regular thing. If you are going to take something I’ve written, turn it into a lesson, and then take it on the road to make a living… that’s different. We should talk about.
  • Do: If you feel like I should be compensated because you were paid an honorarium (or salary) for work that was essentially mine, please make a contribution to my church.
  • Don’t: Try to pass off my thoughts as your own in a sermon, lesson, or class. It is embarrassing when people in your audience/class contact me and tattle. The internet has made the world pretty small.

Postscript #1: It’s obvious why I’ve written this post. I’m tired of seeing my work ripped off and unattributed all over the place. It’s not right. And it certainly isn’t fair. Most of it is just sloppy so I am assuming its because people don’t know that they are supposed to attribute things or they don’t know how or that content written on my blog actually is my property and they are not free to generate revenue off of it. Now you know.

Postscript #2: Why are people in ministry the worst ones? Shouldn’t Christian leaders demonstrate integrity in all areas of their lives? Especially intellectual property?

Postscript #3: These are pretty much the same rules you should put into play for any blogger. So while this post is about me and my content, you can safely use this as a guideline for most blogs.


12 responses to “How to Blog, Write, and Speak With Integrity”

  1. Lars Rood Avatar

    Adam. As always you have stated something that needs to be said but no one wanted to say it. I agree with all you have said here. In fact I agreed so much I used control-C and Control-V and posted it on my website in it’s entirety. 😉


  2. Paul Turner Avatar

    Wow and double wow! Well said. I wonder if there will be any repentant (or not) thieves posting here soon. 🙂

    1. adam mclane Avatar

      I’m not holding my breath.

  3. Doug Ranck Avatar

    Well spoken, Adam. I feel sad you had to write it at all. How can we teach integrity and civility to youth when we’re busy plagiarizing? I loved the quote I heard on 30 Rock the other night, “My generation never votes, it interferes with us talking about ourselves all the time.” I am praying our youth ministry team will spend a little less time trying to make a name for ourselves and more time making a name for God.
    Keep writing!!

  4. jonathan wright Avatar
    jonathan wright

    I’m going to go write a blog post about intellectual property and not give you credit.

  5. jeremy zach Avatar

    i have a few comments about this post.
    1. i wonder how much the ignorance card plays a role into this discussion? are we blaming people because they simply didn’t know? the wiki movement is so strong that some have a misconception of what is really free and theirs?
    2. i feel really bad for online intellectual property lawyers because this issue is about as gray as my greyhound. in all seriousness i was talking to a lawyer about this online intellectual property issue and he said this: Don’t be lazy. If you are only using the idea, you just give credit–simple as that. Avoiding the drudgery to come up with fresh content is not right.
    3. as blog authors we do in fact need to in a very fun and playful way educate our readers on what copyright is and how to use it. They need to know the difference between copyright and fair use. It is just as much our fault as their fault. the fact that they can easily rip off content is part our fault because we don’t have systems in place to regulate.
    4. you are just a cool cat that every online blogger wants to be like you. you have made techgeeks look like rockstars.

    1. adam mclane Avatar

      Yeah, my hope is that a little education goes a long way. I figured this was more polite than writing a post called “stop stealing, Jesus is watching you!”

      And yes, I suppose it is a smidge flattering. But it’d be more flattering if folks acknowledged me.

      See you on Nashville?

      1. jeremy zach Avatar

        yeah i am amped for nashville. also thanks for writing this. i kind of went to an extreme and got a plugin called: wpcopyright. essentially you cannot copy/paste any content unless you contact me. it has actually worked out well because people contact me and introduce themselves before asking if they can use my content.

        1. adam mclane Avatar

          I’m hoping to avoid that step. And part of me is probably just being a baby. But that would be a good next step.

  6. Gerrard Fess Avatar

    I wish people would just be considerate. Example: I heard through the grapevine that one of my articles from YMX (which I didn’t think was the greatest) was being used in a doctorate program (Now I know most of what I write is simple and to the pt and shouldn’t even be a college level but that’s another story) I just wish the professor would of said Hey, fellow worker in the Kingdom – I’m giving my students your article to read. Thanks for all your doing.

    Did I? No. Nothing. Sad, really. He gets paid to teach what I wrote … and I just don’t want anything in return ..other than hey thanks.

    Thanks Adam for what you WRITE. An big HT to U!!!

    1. adam mclane Avatar

      Yup, I totally understand. I think it is a matter of courtesy for things like that. Like you said, it’s no big deal. But it would be nice to be acknowledged.

  7. mommafoso Avatar

    Thanks for the informative, concise reminder how attribution in general works and especially now in cyberspace.

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