How copyright law impacts content marketing?

The pre-story: The leading consultant of WSI Online Kristjan-Paul Raude is the internet marketing lector in TLÜ. One of the assumptions to pass the course was to write an essay about internet marketing. Some of the most interesting writings will be published in WSI blog. Here is the second of them. Authors: Ardi Kristovald and Silver Martsar

Blogging started in 1990-s when people started to share their interests, hobbies and thoughts in internet environments. Self-expression was the main purpose of blogging back in that time. The simple self-expression grew into a serious marketing channel and a key factor to grow the online presence. It all became possible thanks to search engines that value unique and quality content that pushed businesses to take content marketing more seriously.

Copyright law in content marketing

Creating something, including content, is protected in favour of the creator with copyright law. The usage of written materials is regulated by legally binding copyright law. It’s an important aspect in content creation as its incredible easy to copy and republish content on other channels. The content generated by others can be published illegally using your own name as the author or legally by referring to the original author and asking a permission to publish the content.

Sharing others’ content

Content marketing is not all about creating fresh and unique content but also sharing relevant posts related to your products/services. So when you follow copyright laws correctly the benefit will be two ways. Better visibility and acknowledgement for content creator as the referring site also mention the original source and author. The more posts are shared in blogosphere the bigger is the visibility of an author and the author will increase their authority as expert on the field. Better SEO means better visibility.

Sharing others’ content also helps to increase your own brand recognition by offering relevant and interesting information about what’s going on in the market. Content marketing is more about relevancy and providing value than who created it. There is a symbiosis where good and quality content can effectively be used by both the author and the followers.

Who is the author?

Sometimes finding the original author can be more difficult than initially thought. Copyright law has one point – authoring is created with publishing. So the moment when someone posts your content online they own the copyright of the published content. There is a custom habit in content marketing that the content is created by freelance writers who won’t give their name to the written article. The copyright goes to publisher. So who is the real author? The content creator or the publisher?

There are also other nuances, like when companies that generate content centrally but publish it globally. The content is translated into different languages and posted in local sites. So authoring is created in every country.

Let’s add another copyright clause – authorship presumption. In assumption that the publisher is also the author and proving the opposite is the up to the real author. How do you prove the real authoring? Or the opposite, how to prove, that the publisher is not the original author? A lot goes lost in translation and it’s quite impossible to prove that the published article is stolen. Content doesn’t have so many recognizable elements like for example music has.

As the copyright laws are quite contrary we can say that in state of content marketing copyright law is rather a good recommendation or a guideline. Show respect to your brand followers, care about your customers and share the content referring to the original authors.

Sharing content and authoring in social media

When the company follows the copyright law and uses their blog to distribute the content it’s easy to figure out the real author – domain owner or a specific worker. On the other hand, posting on social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ etc. can create a lot of confusion around authoring.

When creating the account you must accept terms of service. When joining their service you must allow them to use the content you’ve crated by their will and business purposes. Moreover, you have no rights for your own content or for compensations.

“Hey Peter! Hot singles are waiting for you!”

Approving Facebook terms of services you agree that the content you post (that may be protected with any intellectual property rights) on Zuckerberg corporate website, you give Facebook “a non-exclusive, transferable, worldwide license royalties.”

This means that you give Facebook the right to convey, licence and use the content you created with absolutely no fees. It’s not a big deal for a housewife who posts her baby’s first steps on Facebook. But it is a big deal for professional photographers and content creators who wish to earn a living with their work.

Juridically, if Facebook wants, he could sell all the content you’ve created and posted on Facebook to third parties not paying you a penny. By the way, it’s already been done!

Citisebn Smith from Lychnburg USA visited his Facebook account on 2009 when an interesting ad appeared: “Hey Peter! Hot singled are waiting for you!”. Not only was Peter happily married but the photo that was used on the ad was about his wife. Third party software was using Facebook’s data and found a picture of Cheryl Smith that was used on the ad. Finally Facebook cancelled the advertising but they had no juridical responsibility to do so.

How to protect the intellectual property on the internet?

There are various methods to protect the intellectual property with solutions that don’t allow copying – add watermarks to photos, presentations and other visual elements, add copyright sign to texts, prohibit copying in browsers (when someone tries to copy your content only URL address will appear) etc. These kinds of solutions are not fool proof but they might make some people to think that copying is a fraud.

When discovering copyright violation you must notify the publisher or the environment where the content is posted. Normally the application is looked through and with enough evidence the stolen copy is removed.

Of course, the publisher may object and claim the right of using the content referring to Fair Use and not remove the content. Fair Use is a juridical term that says that content protected with copyright may have limited use and in transformative purpose to republish without the permission of the author. If this should be the case, the service provider can upload your content and there is no other choice but to go to the court.


The copyright law protects the author but it’s far from perfect. That’s why it’s every business owner’s responsibility to educate their employees who deal with content marketing about the good practices of content creation and copyright law restrictions. A small mistake can have expensive consequences. If you have doubts about the copyright issues of some picture, text or video avoid using it or contact the author to ask permission to use it.