For the casual user, Facebook is just a fun way to share interesting content with friends. But as a casual user, it’s sometimes hard to spot content that’s been stolen or used without permission.
I’ve been a blogger (aka “content creator”) for the past 5 years. I know what it takes to constantly come up with new ideas, write three drafts, pour over photoshop, and study until 3:00 a.m. trying to figure out what MySQL means (OK, I still don’t know that last one). And I’ve seen friends and strangers alike have that content taken by big brands or individuals without their permission. I see that content being shared every day on my Facebook News Feed by well-meaning people who have no idea they are perpetuating intellectual or digital property theft.
Those who know me realize that my moral compass is slightly overdeveloped – annoyingly so – and I feel the need to educate people about appropriate content sharing etiquette. If his helps you, please share it with friends so hardworking people can have the credit they deserve.
NOTE: in the following examples, I am in no way accusing the user of committing a crime. Of course, I don’t know the situations or what permissions may have been obtained privately. I am pointing out the warning signs to look for before sharing. If appropriate permission have been obtained, you may see a statement that the content is “Copyright www.originalwebsite.com. Used with permission.”
Look for these warning signs before sharing content from friends and pages. And by all means don’t employ these techniques to get buzz for your business.
1. The original watermark has been scrubbed out.
I didn’t get a screen capture of this when I saw it the other day. A photo posted by a page had used Photoshop to try to remove the watermark on an image. However, the guilty party didn’t have the skills to remove the part of the mark that appeared on the subject’s legs. Last year, in a well-publicized battle with NickMom.com , many bloggers found their images being used without permission or attribution by NickMom. One of the photos even had bold text slapped over the watermark. If you see remnants of a watermark, move on without clicking “share.” Or better yet, unlike the page and don’t support the company.
2. An entire recipe, craft or blog post is used as a status update or photo description.
I found a Facebook page today by following a friend’s share. The page has 198,000 Likes. How much original content does it have? Zero. Goose Egg. Nada. Every post is an entire recipe scraped from another site, a quote (sometimes attributed) with a “borrowed” photo. Apparently, they’ve received some complaints, because the “About” section consists of instructions on how to submit a DMCA take down notice. In my opinion, that is like saying, “We know we are (allegedly) stealing your content, but we won’t do anything about it until you complain.” The website affiliated with this Facebook page is exclusively sharing recipes that belong to others. If they don’t have express permission to republish, this statement at the top of their website does NOT make it OK: “I do not own any of the recipes and pictures posted here. This blog is simply a compilation of some amazing recipes that I come across and am sharing them with you. Enjoy….” Of course, she has a Google ad right their in the top right corner!
It is illegal to repost an entire recipe or blog post without express permission, even with attribution. That’s right. Even if you say, “original source: originalwebsite.com” the administrators of the website/blog/Facebook page are stealing content. If you want to be in compliance with intellectual property law, post the first paragraph and then link to the original source so users can read the rest. Unfortunately, 2,000+ people liked this possibly stolen recipe/photo, and 10,000+ people shared it.
3. A photo has been downloaded from another page or website and uploaded to another page.
Here’s how to make sure you’re sharing the right way:
- Never remove a watermark or identifying feature. If you suspect this has been done, don’t share!
- Repost only the first paragraph of content (recipe, blog post, etc) and link to the original location. There is a fine line between curation and stealing.
- When sharing website content, use the social sharing buttons that appear on the original webpage. If there are none (that’s a crime right there!), simply copy the webpage url and share that. Never copy/paste or download photos to share.
- If you want to share a recipe or craft you made, take your own picture and share it with a link to the original recipe, like I do in my Weekly Meal Plan posts.
- If you change a recipe or craft pattern enough for it to be considered original, include a courtesy link back to the post that provided the inspiration.
Have you seen content that violates intellectual property law and/or ethics? Have you shared this type of content without realizing it? There is no condemnation from me, but now that you are educated, you can spread the word and help honor the people who spend endless hours creating awesome internet posts for the rest of us to enjoy.