Whether you are a small company who handles your own digital marketing campaigns, or you hire a staff of professional writers and designers to handle it, it is important that everyone is on the same page when it comes to copyright and trademark rules. Failure to do so can get you into trouble when all you wanted to do was find a catchy graphic, a fun quote, or an example of the point you were trying to make.
Captain Copyright represents and protects copyright holders everywhere! (Image Credit: Wikipedia)
There are some digital marketing tips that can serve as a “rule book” to keep you and/or your digital marketing staff from infringing on someone else’s creative rights, and making sure you give credit where credit is due. In fact, Google is so fed up with copyright issues that they’ve promised to begin lowering the rankings of sites that do not adhere to strict copyright laws.
6 Digital Marketing Tips to Prevent Breaking the (copyright) Law
- Understand the purpose of copyrighting. Make sure you and your staff understand what copyrights are in the first place. As a business owner, marketing manager, or boss, you can understand how valuable it is to be honored for the work that you do, or for the ideas you provide, which enable your company to be successful. Honoring copyrights falls under the same principles. Copyrighting is sheltered below the umbrella of “intellectual property” protection. The intellectual items protected by copyright laws include things like: books, magazines, film, manuscripts, photo images, graphics, web content, etc. As a matter of fact, anything you write or create online is automatically protected under current copyright laws.
- Don’t use copyrighted material. If you wanted to, you could go through complicated processes to legally register your copyright with the government, allowing you to have the copyright symbol (©) embedded on anything you produce. For most of us, especially in the world of digital marketing, this isn’t feasible. Should you use copyrighted material without permission, the owner of the material can file a complaint with Google – and their lawyers, for that matter. Enough of these complaints and Google will begin to move your site further and further down the rankings. If someone contacts you, requesting you to remove their material from your site, it’s in your best interest to do so expediently.
- Use free image/royalty sites. In the digital marketing world, the most common copyright infringements happen when we use images from other sites. FYI: Google’s “free images” are free to look at, not free to reproduce. Most of us can come up with our own text but appropriate images are harder to come by. Search for free image sites or royalty sites to make sure your images are not illegally obtained. Some sites, like Flickr Commons, provide free images you can use as long as you properly recognize the artist for their work.
- Check your site. Have someone in your company peruse the website on a regular basis to make sure there are no copyright infringements. They can click through blogs and scan new pages to make sure credit is given appropriately. Your good intentions can still go awry if you forget to properly cite “Image Credit:_____” with a proper link to the originator.
- Use ethical designers. If you use graphic and/or web designers, make sure they are trustworthy and don’t just rip off other designers’ work to pass off as their own. A part of your interview should include questioning them about their knowledge/familiarity with copyright and trademark laws and the importance of creating original work. Do they understand the ramifications of their failure to respect these laws? Get all of your agreements in writing.
- Create a written “takedown” policy. It is a good idea to create a written policy of how your company will respectfully and efficiently handle situations where you may be in violation of copyright and/or trademark law. Create a “copyright policy” page on your site so you can link to it should the situation arise. If your digital marketing staff has erred in some way, and you’re contacted by the offended party, you can immediately direct them to your policy so they understand you are conscientious. Then immediately follow your policy to the letter. If you allow outsiders to upload/add content to your site, make sure they’re aware of your policies and have agreed to adhere to them before they are allowed access.
Nobody wants to have their hard work stolen and used for others’ benefit. The more you understand how important it is to create original content and/or purchase/cite borrowed content you use, the better you can feel about your digital marketing practices. Plus, the more ethical you are in your web content and design, the better chance you have of getting to that prized Number 1 spot in major search engine rankings.