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Be Careful When it Comes to Your Online Content


Gregory Clarke on September 11, 2013 in Advice for Business Owners

When you leave in the morning, you always lock your front door. We lock our cars and we secure our businesses. Our hard assets are physically secure and we have property insurance in case a break and enter occurs. This is standard practice and gives us peace of mind, but what about your online content?

All businesses now have websites to tell the world about what they do, how to work with them, their unique differentiators and in-house expertise. In addition to the website, most companies are now taking a direct online presence by posting information such as opinions, product reviews, or specific technical data through blogs, YouTube, etc. Certainly, this is a great way to create an online presence and direct more traffic to your website. The problem is that online content theft is growing. Articles and content are being routinely taken and plagiarized as original work by others. Plagiarism has always been an issue since writing was developed, but the internet has enhanced it due to the basic principle of the internet being a place to connect people and share information and ideas. I support that principle, but sharing views and information is different from passing it off as your own original work. Unfortunately, the internet is seen as a place to obtain information for free, and that may be true to a degree, but not entirely the case.

The reality is that anything you post can be copied. In most cases, you probably won't even know it has happened due to the breadth of the web. So what can you do? Well, it mainly comes down to diligence on your part. Take the position that you know that content can be copied and the event will likely happen if it hasn't already. Any content that is truly proprietary should be kept off your website and be diligent in what you post in your online activities to not give away too much. Before you post something, consider what a reader could do with the information and are you comfortable with that event? Also, content may not be only proprietary information but also considered key information about your business. For example, many businesses list quotes from customers, details of prior projects, etc. as part of their marketing to establish their credibility in the marketplace. That makes sense, but did they consider that their competitors now know who some of their customers are, and with some additional competitive intelligence, can approach those customers to win future contracts? If you consider these circumstances before you post something, at least you will be mitigating the effect of any content theft that may occur.