Copyright Issues With Content Marketing

In a recent article about creating successful content marketing for your business, the subject of copyright infringement came up. While posting content to the web, there are several legal issues you need to know not only to not break copyright laws but also to protect your own copyrighted material and the integrity of your content.

What IS Content Marketing?

While the article is worth reading for a full description and great tips on content marketing, in brief, it’s the practice of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling. It is non-interruption marketing. Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyer more intelligent. In a great sense, it’s like a blog you write for your business, which holds CONTENT that engages people in the hope they will come back, become fans, give you trust and loyalty while the recognition, loyalty and trust built through content marketing translates into sales.

With more than 84% of those businesses surveyed responding that they are increasing content production, clearly—blogging and advanced content are taking a prominent position in B2B marketing. The leading content types being created are case studies (62%), white papers and ebooks (61%) and press releases (58%). Infographics have also been hot, increasing from 28% last year to 43% this year (read some tips for creating easy, effective and amazing infographics). More interactive content, such as “advertorials,” webinars and social media engagement appear to be on the decline with B2B marketers (but on the rise with B2C marketers). Budgeting trends are also telling; last year 20% of marketing budgets were allocated to content. This year the number is closer to 30%.

The credo of content marketing starts with six basic things you must understand and accept:

  • Dedicate resources to creating great content (whether paying outsourced/contributed writers or in-house editors).
  • Enforce high quality editorial standards on all content types (writing, illustration, video).
  • Don’t just produce content about yourself; create content that’s helpful to your audience.
  • Develop a community of users around a topic (rather than around your brand/business) and let your brand be the host of the community.
  • Share content smartly through social channels.
  • Remember consistency and patience in building up an audience.

Another basic is to show honesty to build trust and loyalty. Part of that is to stay away from using copyrighted images you don’t own or haven’t purchased.

If one wanted to number the problems the web can cause for individuals, the first would be those who believe The Onion is real news — the second would be that people believe if images appear on the web, they are open to be used for free, by anyone, for anything. In third but running a close second, is no one ever reads the Terms of Service when they sign up for a content-driven site like Facebook, Pinterest or Google+.

Giving it Away!

If you’ve read the Terms of Service when signing up for a content site, you may very well find a passage like this:

By making available any Member Content through the Site, Application or Services, you hereby grant to (company name) a worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free license, with the right to sublicense, to use, copy, adapt, modify, distribute, license, sell, transfer, publicly display, publicly perform, transmit, stream, broadcast, access, view, and otherwise exploit such Member Content only on, through or by means of the Site, Application or Services.

These terms, unfortunately, are similar in just about every site we use on a daily basis. In the case of the once popular MySpace, suddenly new bands and artists discovered the terms to which they had eagerly agreed gave the site owner, FOX News Corp., rights to use, distribute and sell to the devil all their material, copyrighted, trademarked or patented. Material was quickly deleted but that little passage seen in user’s terms on many sites; “we will cease distribution as soon as practicable,” doesn’t actually spell out what time period is “practicable.” It very well may be several years if a licensing contract has been granted a third party.

Can you guess which popular content site lists the following passage as one of their Terms of Service… and you’ve accepted it?

You hereby grant (company name) an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to (a) use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publicly perform or display, transmit, scan, reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and distribute (through multiple tiers), any User Content you (i) Post on or in connection with the (company name)  Service or the promotion thereof subject only to your privacy settings or (ii) enable a user to Post, including by offering a Share Link on your website and (b) to use your name, likeness and image for any purpose, including commercial or advertising, each of (a) and (b) on or in connection with the (company name)  Service or the promotion thereof.

Of course, no one can give away the rights to your copyrighted material by using it as their content on a site. If you are a photographer , artist, designer or illustrator and a fan posts a piece of yours onto their Facebook profile or Pinterest account, those sites have no right to use the material. If you, as the creator post art or photos to your account, you are stuck with the terms to which you have agreed.

How does that feel? Other people making money off your work and efforts even though you are protected by law? If you are not a creative, can you empathize with those who make a living through their creations? Do you believe that if you were losing income because someone else was stealing your work, you would have the right to be angry and sue for lost income, damages and penalties?

Images Are NOT Free!

Unfortunately, there are many people who believe that they can use images they find on the web for free. Some use them for blog content and others make full commercial use of them. Sometimes the belief is that they won’t get caught and even if caught, there will be no prosecution. In the age of the internet, none of this is true. It’s theft and penalties can destroy your business. If you’re going to invest in content marketing, invest a dollar more for a stock image and move forward with a clear conscience and a clean record as a reliable business.

Images ©GL Stock Images

Speider Schneider

Speider Schneider is a former member of The Usual Gang of Idiots at MAD Magazine and has designed products for Disney/Pixar, Warner Bros., Harley-Davidson, ESPN, Mattel, DC and Marvel Comics, Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon among other notable companies. Speider is a former member of the board for the Graphic Artists Guild, co-chair of the GAG Professional Practices Committee and a former board member of the Society of Illustrators. Follow him on Twitter @speider

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