Content Meets Copyright: Ethical Content Marketing

In a world where content is king, content marketers are busy bees making content to feed their audiences. In 2018, it’s not just about feeding them so they’re no longer hungry but feeding them higher quality content using multiple mediums and platforms that targets various consumer needs and stages of the purchasing journey.

Sound exhausting? Trust me, it is. So how do some people cope with this pressure?

Content Marketing Meets Copyright Laws: What NOT to Do

To save some time and sanity, some individuals resort to shortcuts to meet their deadlines. What are these shortcuts that enter murky legal and ethical territory? Written articles that are reproduced without permission or credit. Images that aren’t under Creative Commons license.  Research or original ideas presented as one’s own or without proper credit.

These actions violate copyright laws, are unethical, can potential lost income for the original creator and can ultimately backfire on the person who is plagiarizing the works of others. The pressure on content marketers is real, but so are the potential legal, financial and reputational risks to both the individual and the company or brand they represent.

In my early days of blogging, I wrote from the heart, and copyright laws were never a concern because my work was 100% mine. As I’ve moved into the digital marketing world as a professional, my blog posts have changed (both at work and my personal site) and with that has come a whole new set of considerations. I am careful with the images I use, ensuring they are under Creative Commons and from a reliable source (Pixabay is my personal favourite).

When writing a blog post that requires research like this one, I give credit where credit is due. Content takes time, but plagiarizing is never the right shortcut to take.

What About Sponsored Content?

My two favourite sources of marketing information and inspiration are Moz and Search Engine Journal. I live for Whiteboard Friday! Both sites have limited sponsored content, and in the 6 months or so since I started following them I haven’t noticed an increase.

Regarding Search Engine Journal’s sponsored content, I am not bothered by it for three reasons. The first reason is that it’s quite infrequent (unlike many so-called Instagram ‘influencers’ who never seem to post anything they’re not paid for!). A sponsored post here and there isn’t unreasonable given that I access their content for free. Second, what sponsored content they do post is clearly labeled through post tags, a tagline at the bottom of the blog and even a slightly different background colour on the main blog page (as seen in the image below).

sponsored post screenshot

Finally, sponsored content on Search Engine Journal provides just as much value to me as their regular owned content. It can even be a good opportunity to learn about different tools and services available! Search Engine Journal finds the right balance between transparency, frequency and the nature of content itself when providing sponsored content to their readers.

With the pressure to produce more content than before combined with the ease of access to other people’s content online, it can be tempting for content marketers to take shortcuts that violate both copyright laws and ethical standards by plagiarizing. It’s important that we treat the works of others how we would want them to treat our own by not reproducing work when it’s not allowed, and giving credit where credit is due.