Recently, one of our agency’s competitors sent me (and their entire email list) a message with the latest research into what boomers and seniors do/don’t want from websites. The research they shared? Creating Results’ Social, Silver Surfers study.
After a hearty laugh, our results-focused team decided to use this as a teaching opportunity.
Share and Share Alike …
Some say we’re moving to a “sharing economy,” sharing or re-using goods, services and resources. It certainly is easier than ever to share content and ideas.
A quick click on the tools below and you could share this post with your networks via email or via roughly 300 social networks. (Try it! We’d love it.) We can embed photos, video and audio (as we did on this blog two days ago). Copy/paste, scanning, screengrabs, save link as …
The ease with which we can share means marketers have to work harder to balance sharing and caring (about others’ intellectual property).
What Is “Content Theft”?
This post from Ann Marie van den Hurk offers a very clear description of content theft: http://bit.ly/1ungovw. For me, the key statement is:
“[It} is content theft when someone reads a blog post online and decides to share it. Except they curate it in a way where they copy and paste the entire post into their blog or website with a tiny print attribution with a link to the actual author. Done without asking the author if they would be OK with sharing their work. What is happening there is plagiarism where someone is taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.”
A real world example: Often organizations get excited about news coverage and copy/paste the entire article from that news outlet into their own site. This is content theft. It doesn’t matter if they include an attribution line or what size that attribution to the source is.
In this case, Creating Results didn’t get any attribution at all.
What Are the Rules for Attribution?
Because we’re marketers, we really do WANT people to share our content. It extends Creating Results’ brand reach and — we hope! — elevates the quality of marketing aimed at boomers and seniors.
For this reason our Social, Silver Surfers ebook included this note on page 6:
Because we’re marketers, not lawyers, we asked an expert about attribution.
Jodi McLane, Partner at Dingman, McInnes & McLane LLP, has extensive experience in trademark infringement litigation and in protecting intellectual property. She shared a link to a recent post by Corey Eridon of HubSpot that, as she puts it, “does a really good job of explaining internet etiquette regarding attribution:” http://bit.ly/1DxlvMc
Jodi went on to say:
“It is important to provide proper attribution to an author, but giving attribution does not relieve you of the obligation to not copy someone’s work in a manner that would constitute copyright infringement. For example, it is one thing to quote a statistic from an article and give the proper attribution (probably ok), it is quite another to copy the entire article and re-post it on your site (even with proper attribution). Attribution does not cure the copyright infringement.
Not giving proper attribution and making it appear the work is your own is often called ‘Plagiarism.’ However, the legal liability associated with plagiarism is copyright infringement. If a work is copyright protected (such as original works of authorship), it does not matter whether they are published in print or online. If you copy them absent an exception it is copyright infringement.”
So what does that mean for marketers? Before you share someone else’s work ANYWHERE, look for and respect their copyrights. Creating Results’ Social, Silver Surfers research, for instance, is copyrighted. As is the executive summary our competitive agency picked up at a tradeshow before they incorporated our findings into their email.
Note that this blog post does not constitute legal advice. Please consult your organization’s lawyer with questions or reach out to experts like Jodi.
Lawsuit or Hissyfit?
How should Creating Results … or any organization … respond when copyright infringement is suspected?
A few years ago an outlet called Cooks Source took the work of blogger Monica Gaudio and printed it in their magazine. When challenged, the editor responded “the web is considered ‘public domain’ and you should be happy we just didn’t ‘lift’ your whole article and put someone else’s name on it!” [Editorial note: the author shouldn't be happy and the editor was just plain wrong.]
Linda Holmes of NPR wrote about what happened next in her post, “The Day The Internet Threw A Righteous Hissyfit About Copyright And Pie.”
Should we sue? Throw a hissyfit? Neither seems the Creating Results way. We chose to use this experience to hopefully educate clients, colleagues and those concerned.
Did we make the right choice?
Please sound off below. Share your experiences, comments or questions. We’ll address other sticky content sharing/intellectual property questions on this blog in the coming weeks.
Editor’s Note: As we want to keep the focus on the importance of proper attribution, we have removed an image seen in an earlier version of this post.