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Are Your Online Content Copyrighting Concerns Valid?

In 2013, having high-quality online content on your website is critical to ranking well with search engines such as Google. Web content is big business these days, but the obvious downside to posting something online is the possibility that someone will steal it for his or her own use. Sometimes it’s “spun" through a computer program to obscure the theft, but sometimes your content can just show up verbatim on another site. It's important to know how copyright relates to online content and how to protect your work.

Online Content

First off, be aware that online content doesn't just refer to words: It can also be images, audio, or video content. This means that anything you post or see online can potentially have a copyright. If you are a business owner, especially a small business owner, you need to post content online in some form as part of your content strategy. Whether you write posts for a blog, post products for sale on your ecommerce site, or have images of your photography, you use online content to communicate with your customers.

One of the biggest problems with the theft of online content is that the original owner may not even know that it has been copied. That is because, unlike stealing a diamond necklace from your home, your copy is still left on your original website.

Combating Content Thieves

The reality of the Internet is that sometime, now or in the future, you are likely to have some of your web content stolen. You will have to decide whether your online content is worth copyrighting—and if so, at what level.

There is a difference between content that describes a product and a piece of original poetry. Most manufacturers who make products want their descriptions copied so that their distributors have good product descriptions. On the other hand, a poet doesn't want his or her original poetry used without permission. This is where online copyrighting comes into play.

You can copyright online content with a Creative Commons license, which provides partial permission for use of your content in specific circumstances. You can also fully copyright online content. Additionally, for image content, you can add a watermark to your image. These methods of adding a copyright to online content do work.

Dealing with Stolen Content

There are several ways of dealing with stolen content:

  • You can ignore it. If the content helps promote your business or is not important to you, there's no requirement to do anything.
  • You can choose a content strategy where you only post content that you don't mind being stolen.
  • You can contact the content thief directly and request that your content be removed from the site. It's possible that the person just doesn't know the rules of the road.
  • You can file a DMCA report with the website owner, the hosting company, Google and anyone else concerned. This can get the content or website taken down, though these processes often take time.

If you do decide to take action, keep in mind that it will take time out of your day that you could be using to pursue business concerns that might be more important. That is why you need to decide whether you should stop content theft before it happens by not putting proprietary material online in the first place.

Choosing to put your content online comes with some inherent risks. Content theft happens regularly, and you have to decide how to manage your material. If you can watermark content, that works the best. Otherwise, you may be wise to limit what content you put on the Web.

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