4 common copyright mistakes that could cost your business

Years ago, while editing an article written by a doctor, I discovered that much of it had been copied from another site. Dismayed, I contacted the doctor’s publicist, who was serving as liaison, expecting an apology and a commitment to making things right.

Instead, he argued with me. “This is a common subject,” he informed me, “and there are only so many ways you can say things.”

That’s kind of like a jazz musician saying, “This is a popular form of music, and there are only so many ways you can arrange notes.” Yet the belief this publicist expressed is a widespread one.

Copyright mistakes can garner businesses bad press, cease and desist orders, financial penalties, and even lawsuits. Here are the most common mistakes I’ve noticed in online marketing efforts—be they blogging, article writing or social media posting. If you wouldn’t make these mistakes, I’d suggest making sure your entire team wouldn’t either. Though businesses often get away with them, it’s that “not always” part that’s a pain.

1. Copying paragraphs worth of “facts” and just rearranging them or adding your own words.

Facts aren’t copyrighted, but the way they’re expressed is.cross

2. Thinking that as long as you give credit, it’s OK to republish.

I’m not sure how this myth is still around. So many people have gotten in trouble over it. Republishing an article, photo or illustration without permission is copyright infringement, even if you give credit and even if you link back to the creator’s site.

3. Thinking a work isn’t copyrighted if there’s no copyright notice.

If you can read it, it’s copyrighted. This happens automatically. Officially registering copyright gives writers more legal power. But they still own the copyright—and have some legal power—even if they haven’t registered it.

4. Uploading photos and cartoons to Facebook that don’t belong to you.

Tons of people do this, so you may think, “I won’t get in trouble for it.” But remember So Delicious.

facebookIt’s generally accepted that:

  • You can share artwork via Facebook’s “share” button when the work is posted by the copyright owner.
  • You can’t download another person’s artwork and then upload it yourself to a Facebook photo album.

What about Pinterest? Those are somewhat untested waters. For now, if I were pinning for a business, I’d pin only from sites with “pin” buttons on them.

There are exceptions to these rules, legal nuances to some and even places to find material that’s not copyrighted. But in general, if you avoid these mistakes, you’ll be a step ahead of a lot of other content and social media marketers. And hopefully you’ll avoid a big legal headache.

Leigh Ann Hubbard is a freelance writer who specializes in long-term care, health and aging. She’s an expert in Web writing, including the most current SEO techniques.

Disclaimer: This is not legal advice. The author is not a lawyer. This is just her personal opinion based on her experiences.

Leigh Ann Hubbard - profile picAbout the author: Leigh Ann Hubbard
With a background in journalism, creative writing and Web-content production, Leigh Ann brings a unique mix of qualifications to the professional-writing field. She’s obsessive about accuracy, passionate about creativity and energized by the challenges high-quality SEO writing brings.
Leigh Ann has been a freelance writer since 2003. She’s managing editor of the consumer-health website and served in the same role for its previous corresponding magazine.


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