social media blog copyright best practices

One question any blogger, marketing, social media or business leader should never ask themselves: “Should I copy somebody else's content or create my own?”

Note: This post comes with strong opinion as my content has been blatently plagiarized numerous times the past few months.

The worst case study I have seen recently was with my own content.  The guilty party was a so called “social media consultant” who literally copied and pasted my Green Eggs & Facebook: 15 Social Media Tips from Dr Seuss article.  She copied the entire article, changed the title by swapping “Facebook” with “Twitter” and went on her way to claim it as her own. She even tweeted about it and didn't respond to my tweets, LinkedIn message, comment on blog, Facebook msgs and took four days to remove it from her blog! Sad thing is my article wasn't the only one on her blog that was not her own.

Since the latest event noted above I have had many ask for words of advice. I am working on a more comprehensive blog post that will include input from thought leaders in this space as well as relevant links to helpful information.  As I started doing research on the topic I realized how complicated and difficult it is to actually find hard core right and wrong answers.  Common sense for me is when it includes law, I do my research before posting any must do type of information to keep you out of trouble. I'll leave that to the attorneys!

So for now, here are some common sense reasons & best practices tips.

For purposes of this article and discussions regarding plagiarism and copy/paste shenanigans I am not referencing experienced thought leaders who are leveraging and promoting other people's content the legal and right way.

Two good examples of best practices when leveraging content:

1. My Green Eggs & Facebook article referenced in the plagiarized scenario above was also creatively included on Guy Kawasaki's HolyKaw! Blog. Of course I was thrilled to see my post referenced on Guy's blog in such a fun and supportive way. Thanks Guy!
2. Shari Weiss contacted me via LinkedIn prior to publishing this post to ask my permission. I think she did an amazing job of adding value to her audience via her own opinion yet including my post and referencing me as the author.

12 Reasons Why You Should Create Your Own Content Vs. Plagiarize Somebody Else's

1. Content takes time to create.  Chances are the reason you're plagiarizing to begin with is you're either lazy or clueless on the topic you're copying.

2. Copying and pasting content without permission and proper reference/credit can be equivalent to stealing, i.e., copyright infringement.

3. A link to the original article does not equal referencing and proper credit to author or get you out of copyright infringement.

4. Ignorance does not get you out of copyright infringement.

5. Content is not free. Just because you find it on the web, it doesn't mean it didn't cost someone's precious time and/or money to create.

6. Real content requires creativity, connecting with an audience to provide value.

7. Real content requires a brain. Copying and pasting content is not using your brain.

8. The primary purpose of content is to connect with an audience, educate them, inspire them.  Spend some time inspiring yourself reading other people's blogs, not copying them. Maybe after reading enough you'll feel motivated to write your own content versus steal someone else's.

9.   If you're copying content, you're connecting the reader to someone else.

10. Yes, Google likes content. However, Google likes unique content and usually knows when the same content is located multiple places. Your copy/paste episodes could actually be hurting your SEO versus helping.

11. If your social media consultant, marketing agency or copywriter is posting primarily posts filled with other people's content, run! What value are they going to add for your business if they can't create their own content about their own business.

12. All blogs and article are equal in the world of Copyright infringement.  It doesn't matter if it's an article from Social Media Today, Alltop, HolyKaw!, Mashable, Hubspot, Hubpages, USA Today or ABC News.  If you copied it, you are creating legal risk for yourself and your business.

15 Common Sense 101 Tips:

1. Don't copy

2. When in doubt, ask for permission.

3. Notify author of post when published. You might actually get some kudos from the author if done correctly.

3. Include reference at top of your blog post that the article is NOT yours. Reference the author and provide YOUR opinion on what you liked about the content and why.

4. Always include a link to authors site and original article. I also recommend including twitter handle when available.

5.  Do not modify copy, article or title.

6. Do not copy/paste images. Images are also protected. If you copy/past and article and an image you may get a double whammy in infringement as image rights are managed by original provider such as Shutter Stock, iStockPhoto, Getty Images etc.

7. If you struggle for copy, it's okay. Acknowledge it and hire a legit copywriter. Not every thought leader can write. If you have ideas in your head but have a hard time getting them documented, a copywriter might be just what you need.

8. Look at content as intellectual capital. Your business needs intellectual capital of your own.  Create it! Copying it won't get you there!

9. If you are a consultant or agency offering services of any kind you are only hurting yourself and your reputation by only publishing other people's content. Business leaders are looking for innovation, creativity. If you struggle with being innovative then you probably have bigger problems than just your copy. You should probably look at your core business services, brand differentiation and positioning in the market.

10. Quit playing stupid.  I am tired of the professional, educated people “playing stupid” when it comes to content and plagiarism.  You know when you're taking the easy way out. Quit being lazy and create your own business, market niche and differentiate peeps!

11. Copyright is not the same as trademark.

12. Do your research. If you want to play the copy/paste game then at minimum do your research. Do a simple Google search and you'll have more than enough results to hopefully scare you out of the copy/paste mentality and into the content creation game!

13. Just because you remove the plagiarized content from your website, it doesn't delete your legal risk. You may very well still be guilty of infringement because you had it there to begin with.

14. If you are a blogger, do your research and protect your intellectual property.  Leverage social media listening tools and monitor the use of your name, trademarks and content.

15. Do not be afraid or wait to contact the guilty party if your online content is plagiarized.  Take screen captures immediately.  Keep records of all contacts, correspondence, etc.

What's Your Opinion?

What is your opinion on this topic. It is a touchy subject and you should have an opinion.  Has your content been plagiarized before? What did you do about it? Have you copied other people's content before knowing you were setting yourself up for legal risk?