To those unfamiliar with the nuances, navigating the rules that surround content creation, syndication and curation can be a full-time job.
Utilizing original content is better than pushing out free content or leveraging content from content farms. The problem is, many marketers don’t have the budget, skill set or personnel to produce a steady drumbeat of varied and engaging original content.As such, the natural inclination is to simply pass along content found in a web search. But the legal implications of doing so can be costly, especially in a landscape where content providers are looking to maximize revenue from their content.
Here’s three tips for marketers to follow to correctly use content found on the web:
1. Live by the golden rule: “if you didn’t write it, you need written permission to republish it.”
The rules around copyright are clear and unambiguous: If you didn’t write it, you don’t have the right to republish it, in any form, without the written permission of the person who did. This applies to photographs, video, articles, and podcasts. At one time, work was only protected if it included the copyright symbol (©) but today, works are now considered copyrighted regardless of the symbol’s presence.
Permission to use copyrighted content most often comes after you write a check. Publically displaying or reproducing the work of an original creator without permission is a clear case of copyright infringement. In the case of the automotive industry, for example, you cannot refer to Consumer Reports, JD Power, etc… without written consent.
However, almost all cases of plagiarism can be avoided by citing a source. Acknowledging that certain material has been borrowed, and then providing the audience with the information necessary to find that source, is generally considered enough to prevent plagiarism.
As long as material can be proven to be substantially similar to the original, it may be considered to be a violation of the Copyright Act.
2. Utilize web resources to legally source images to enhance content.
While a quick search on Google images will provide you with plenty of pictures that could enhance your content, these images are not meant to be copied and shared. The page associated with the image details the copyright holder. You need to find out where the image came from, get permissions to use it and then attribute it to the original creator. Otherwise, you risk generating an unexpected expense.
Companies like Getty Images, for example, have sophisticated means of searching for and finding their images, and investigating whether your company has proper license to use them. Do a Google search for “Getty Image demand letter” and you’ll learn that since the early 2000s, thousands of businesses across the country have received demand letters from Getty Image’s legal department containing settlement demands in the thousands of dollars. If your business uses an image that hasn’t been generated or created internally, you can easily be the subject of a settlement that cancels out many of the benefits of your content marketing program.
Getty Images and iStock Photo are cost-effective providers of stock photography. You can purchase credits to be applied toward images, in multiple sizes appropriate for web distribution for a nominal fee. Once purchased, there typically isn’t an expiration date, and the image can be used repeatedly. The other option would be to take your own photos.
3. Refrain from using the names of trademarked events in business communications.
Content marketers are always looking for ways to tie into timely events as a relevant way to connect with customers and prospects, but you will notice that the some events including “Super Bowl,” “Oscars,” “Final Four” and “Olympics” are never referred to directly, as the names are trademarked. Marketers need to refrain from the temptation of using the name of trademarked events in business communications.
Similarly, baseball fans who watch televised games are familiar with the disclaimer, “without expressed written permission from the league.” The use of the names of sports teams, their players or their logos is also a trademark infringement without written consent.
Every organization and sanctioning body of any note has an extensive copyright and trademark statement. Before you decide to write an article about your local team’s championship bid or your favorite actress’s odds of winning a statuette, read the legal requirements.
The bottom line is that to truly protect yourself, you should have written permission to use any content not created by you in your website content, communications or social media. It’s a best practice for avoiding costly legal action in the future.
Craig Fitzgerald is editorial director of IMN.