Fuzzy and blurry image of a person having a headache or being of two minds

Last Friday, March held a content marketing and copyright issues crash course, led by our peers Jim Young (@JW_Young) and Manny Veiga (@zmveiga). Jim and Manny offered several tips and tricks to navigating the world of copyright issues, discussing best practices when publishing and curating content.

The session included great discussions and insights that are useful to PR consultants and content marketers, as we are confronted with copyright issues on a daily basis. Here are three tips that I learned not to do that may help others trying to stay out of legal hot water (disclaimer: the following information is not legal advice).

1. Use an Image Whose Copyright is Unclear

If the copyright for an image is explicit, simply don’t use it. Looking for a suitable image? Use a stock option. PR agencies often have stock pictures on hand, and if you don’t, you can subscribe to a stock image service. Some of these photos include specific terms of use, such as editorial use only restrictions.

Creative Commons is another solution. Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that allows content creators to share and license their work. Many of these folks provide great images you can use for a blog or website, however, you must always give credit where credit is due. You normally have to cite the name of the work, link, author, and license for the photo. Some of these photos cannot be used for commercial use or repurposed unless the author notes otherwise.

Another option is to use images in the public domain. The good news is, there are no restrictions! The bad news is, these photos tend to be really old works that are no longer copyrighted, but they do include recent government photos, images from NASA and other publicly available photos.

Of course, if you have your eye on one particular licensed image, you could always reach out to the author and ask for permission. In most cases, people don’t mind that their work is being featured on a blog or website, but just want their due credit.

2. Repurposing Your Own Content

Heavily repurposing other works is another practice we wouldn’t recommend, even if it is your own. It doesn’t look good and it can hinder your SEO efforts. How do you avoid self-plagiarism? If you intend to repurpose something that you’ve already written, make sure your new pieces draws on the bigger themes, ideas and angles at play. This ultimately leads to a stronger piece with a fresh angle and approach.

Other tips include changing the stats in your piece to keep things fresh, bringing in your own outside knowledge to add new context, and including new historical references or anecdotes. At the end of the day, the angle of two pieces can be similar, but the content shouldn’t be. When in doubt, don’t be afraid to cite yourself!

3. Failing to Disclose a Commercial Relationship

Looking to write a blog or review on a specific product? Hoping the company will send you a free sample in exchange for reviewing the product? This falls into play with paid expert endorsements, paid blog contributions and some product reviews.

How do you get around this? Disclose your relationship with the company. It’s best to let your readers know you received some sort of compensation and be sure to make it clear your contribution is a paid endorsement. This is especially true for influencers.


This post was first published by Emily Hines on March Communications’ blog PR Nonsense.