Often times as a REVA, you are expected to help create content for your clients blogs and websites, as well as your own. It usually takes hard work and a dose of creativity to come up with original articles and page content. Nothing makes my blood boil more than when you find that your carefully crafted content or images posted by someone else on their website passing as their own. Content theft is plagiarism. Plagiarism is wrong and illegal. Whether you are a new VA or a veteran, I want you to take note of the following two rules.
1. Do not steal or plagiarize content from another source and use it as your own (or your clients).
You would think the above would go without saying. But to this day I still see a number of VA's, mostly new ones, getting caught having plagiarized content on their websites, or have done so for their clients. For one, it gives VA's a bad name and certainly can make their clients look bad, not to mention the legal trouble they can be in.
To me, it is such a common sense thing. Doesn't everyone know that that plagiarism is wrong? When it happens, I find that many people plead ignorance. I have witnessed people actually say, "because it is on the internet, it is fair game to copy". That couldn't be further from the truth. Just look into the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) for yourself. Intellectual property is nothing to mess with and you could end up serious legal trouble. People new to the business may not think that they can be caught and that is why they do it. But with tools like Copyscape.com, they can and will be caught easily.
Need help developing content for your sites and blogs? Enlist the help of a good copywriter. Want to protect your own blog or website from content thieves? Check out Copyscape.com
2. Do not copy images off the web to use for blog or site content without proper permission, source citation or otherwise.
Similar to #1 above, this is another intellectual property issue. It is a bigger deal than most people realize. For some reason, there are many people who don't realize that like written content, images are also copyrighted intellectual property and subject to the same rules under DMCA. It is wrong and considered stealing if you copy images that you do not own and post them to your sites and blogs without license, permission, attribution, etc. Most images you see around the internet are the intellectual property of someone out there and you can land in legal hot water on this one.
For blogging in particular, it has been widely taught that it is always important to include an image with your blog post to capture more visual interest for your posts. Some bloggers that may be ignorant to the intellectual property issues at hand, have gotten into the habit of searching Google Images for pictures and posting them to their blog, thinking that it was ok. They thought they were "public domain". Such actions has over time have landed many of them in legal trouble. Check out some examples, Here and Here.
Even if the copyright infringement had been done innocently or unknowingly, that still will not release you from liability. Getty Images, Inc., a huge source of many photos you see out there, are some of most notorious about defending their intellectual property. It is not uncommon for them to send letters to offenders demanding $800-$8000 in settlement even if it was done unknowingly.
A few key things to note about using images:
- Google Image Search, Facebook, Pinterest, etc, are NOT good sources for images. It is highly likely those images are the intellectual property of someone else. If you have done this in the past, we advise you to go back through and change out your images to those that you own or have license to use.
- If you want free images, search sites like Flickr for images that have Creative Commons licenses that give you the ability to use them freely (with proper sourcing and attribution of course)
- Purchase royalty free stock photos that you can use. You can find inexpensive stock photos at istockphoto.com or photoxpress.com
- Try to mostly use images you personally own or have been created by you.
- if the images are not your own, be sure cite the original source of an image you use, but that does not necessarily mean you are protected from copyright infrigement.
So when you are creating new content for your website and blog, or that of client's, don't succumb to the temptation copying the content of others. Don't copy and take images that you don't own and place on your sites without permission, attribution. Many think that they won't get caught. But I assure you, there are many ways to be found out.
Like I mentioned above, just because it is on the internet, does not mean it is free for the taking. Don't be content thief.