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How Blog Contributors Add Variety Without Copyright Infringement Risk

Posted bySun, Jan 20, 2013 @ 12:19 pm

P1020065Some of the most interesting corporate blogs I’ve seen contain posts from various internal departments, employees of all titles and skill sets—even customers. This type of input displays different facets of an organization: core information, of course, but also the underlying culture and personality. Wonderfully effective for attracting prospects.

The challenge of managing a blog with so many contributors is that you’re not sure if the content is completely original. And not because of devious intentions: many people, especially those new to blogging, are unaware that lifting a phrase or two for their article or submitting an entire story published elsewhere is an utter no-no—even when it’s properly credited. This is copyright infringement, and it could cost the company—a lot.

So how do you keep a reign on the information?

  • Preach to your people. Be proactive: create a guideline document that explains copyright infringement, plagiarism and the difference. Arm them with information about Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), violations and the literal and figurative costs.
  • Encourage linking, sharing—not reposting. One of the things I like to do as a time saver is find a series of articles relevant to my audience, summarize the essence of the story, add my perspective, a twist or call to action and link back to the full story. This is perfectly credible, and something your source welcomes—your (inbound) link boosts their site quality. It’s copyright infringement to distribute someone else’s work—you can’t publish their story on your website—but you can recommend it with an original teaser and link to the original site. Sometimes people need a concrete example for the difference to click.
  • Explain how duplicate content hurts. You don’t want to publish someone else’s content because it’s against the law, it’s ethically a bad move, possibly bad karma and it can affect site quality. Google will Cutt you.
  • Ask for websites referenced or used as background material in the piece. It’s not that you’re checking up on contributors, necessarily (but a double check doesn’t hurt); it’s a good idea to have a list of sites on hand that you want to link to. These outbound links reinforce your authority, and they encourage reciprocity. And getting other sites to link to you does wonders for your website quality and search rankings.
  • Trust your gut. Sometimes you get a feel for things. Maybe you’ve been editing for awhile, you know your industry like the back of your hand or you’re a news junkie—all helpful in sniffing out copy that may be a bit too good. Work with your contributor to see how you might use the information in a safer way.

In my experience, these are just growing pains being endured as more people become publishers on the Web. Many communicators, myself included, forget that a lot of people are new to publishing content, and they don’t know all of the rules. We’re in a great position to guide, as long as we take a step back and break things down.

Ready for references?


Get the Facts

United States Copyright Office

What Does it Mean? Wikipedia Weighs In.



Content Theft and Copyright Infringement: Plagiarism Today

[ink]thinker: Plagiarism vs. Copyright Infringement. Do you Know the Difference?

Wired: ISPs Now Monitoring for Copyright Infringement

Mashable’s 20 Recent Copyright Infringement Stories


For Marketers and Content Creators

Issues That Hurt Google Traffic

Guideline from HubSpot: How Not to Steal People’s Content on the Web 


From The Source: Google’s Matt Cutts

WebProNews/Search, PR and news sections: Matt Cutts Addresses Duplicate Content Issue In New Video

Search Engine Journal: Can Quoting Get You Penalized for Duplicate Content?


From the Back End, The Technical Point-of-View

SEO logic: How to Stop Copyright Infringement

Google Webmaster Tools: Duplicate Content


Legal Information and Resources

OPW Lab: Copyright Infringement and Fighting Website Content Theft

FindLaw: How to Get Permission to Publish Your Website Content

Bit Law, Technology Law Resource:

TraverseLegal: Someone Stole My Website Content: Copyright Implications


Terra Hoskins, principal of inbound marketing consultancy Hoskins Interactive, has worked  in PR, marketing, communications and sales roles for companies that include: CSC (Computer Sciences Corporation), Merisel,Proctor & GambleXM Satellite RadioPacific Ocean Post and White House Black Market. She’s experienced challenges her employers faced starting up, winding down and in transition: including introducing growth strategies, acquisitions and mergers, rebranding and culture changes. She’s grateful for the tough career experiences that teach everything. And AP style. Talk to Terra:terra@hoskinsinteractive.com.