Copyright and Content Marketing
Have you ever felt like you’ve been doing battle on a particular subject forever? That’s how I feel about copyright and content marketing.
Way back in the early 2000s, I managed website content and email marketing for a large media company. Part of my responsibilities included doing those things for a nationally syndicated radio talk show host.
It was a weekly, and sometimes daily, battle with this host over copyrighted images. He seemed to think that if he could find it on the internet, he was free to publish it on his blog. This battle continued even after the company had to write fat checks. You can imagine how frustrating that was.
But you know what? He isn’t that unusual. So many people think it’s perfectly okay to copy other people’s content and use it as they see fit. It’s pretty simple, though: if you did not create the content, you need to work extra hard to make sure you have the right to use it.
My Recent Copyright Battle
The reason that I chose to write about this is that someone decided to use my content without permission. Tuesday morning, I woke up to a new pingback on my business blog. Awesome, someone linked to me! I follow the link and find that what happened is that someone copied an entire blog post of mine and posted it on their site. Including the images, which they hot linked, so I was paying to serve the images to their site.
Oh man, I was hopping mad! Not only did they steal my words, but they cost me money. And that’s beyond the fact that it is my business to write blog posts for clients for money.
So I emailed them at the address offered on their contact page and asked them to remove my content. I gave them a deadline of about 8 – 10 hours.
The deadline passed, so I did a domain lookup to find out their hosting provider. It turned out to be Go Daddy. They have an online form to fill out for copyright cases. I’m sure there’s a similar process at other hosts.
Right after I submitted the copyright claim with Go Daddy, the site that stole my content emailed back. I’m not going to name the website, but I do want to share their response to me:
You were given credit for the article which was only used because it a great article. In regards to your timeline, we are located on the west coast and this would be possible to remove it by your deadline. Additionally, your links were still provided given you credit for any click through beyond our related posts. This brings traffic directly to your server. I’m not sure how you could invoice us for your server time as we aren’t using your server and we haven’t claimed the material as our own. Removing your content is not an issue but please take time to be positive that we don’t use any of your material or endorse your site in the future.
Hahaha. Initially, I thought I could have been mistaken about them hotlinking my images because after they had written back, the images were on their server. But, later on, you’ll find out why I think they had initially hot-linked my graphics, took the time to download and upload them, but somehow didn’t have time to take down the post because they were on the West coast.
Let me be clear: they did not excerpt or summarize my content and link back to my site. They copied a whole blog post, included original images, and posted it all on their site with links interspersed going back to their related content. The only “credit” was at the very bottom in plain text with no link back to my site. Just for fun, here’s my response to them:
That’s not how copyright works. You can’t wholesale copy someone’s content and place it on your site without their permission. Even if you do give credit. And I’m pretty sure you were hotlinking my images this morning when I checked it, but whatever. I appreciate that you enjoyed the content, but it’s good because that is what I get paid to do. So I don’t accept flattery as payment. You should write your own original content or pay for it. Stealing it is not okay.
So at this point, I’m just sitting tight. I submitted my request with Go Daddy already. I’d just see what happened overnight.
The next morning I check to see if they had taken down my content. Yes, they had. But at the same URL, they replaced it with AN ENTIRE ARTICLE COPIED FROM MASHABLE COMPLETE WITH HOTLINKED IMAGES! My email went in one ear and out the other.
Now, people probably copy content from Mashable all the time. Who knows if they engage in DMCA whack-a-mole or not, but I felt it was my duty to bring this to their attention. And they can decide how they want to handle it. Maybe they have some bored lawyers on retainer.
The reason I’m writing all of this, besides the cathartic effect, is that I don’t want you to be this ignorant. I want you to have at least a basic understanding of copyright and content marketing.
Copyright and Content Marketing Resources
Copyright is a confusing subject, and I am no expert. But a great rule of thumb is that if you didn’t create the work, you need to take steps to make sure you have the right to use it.
I’ve gathered a bunch of resources for you here from folks that are much more knowledgeable on the subject of copyright. Everything here is U.S. centric. Laws may be different in other countries.
This guide is an excellent resource with which to begin. It focuses more on what you can do than what you can’t and introduces Creative Commons and Fair Use.
This guide from WordPress tells you what you can do to help prevent people from stealing your content.
Don’t assume that you’re too small to be sued. Learn from this blogger what can happen if you do use copyrighted works without permission.
These guidelines will help you determine if you can use a particular image on your site. This post also gives you the steps to follow if someone has violated your copyright.
Have you ever had your content stolen? If so, how did you handle it?