The following is an edited transcript of my video Copyright Concerns When Using Others to Create Content

Lots of us use others to help create content online. Many of my clients have contractors or vendors or virtual assistants who assist them with writing blog posts, creating newsletters, doing social media posting and work. And there’s nothing wrong with that, of course. But there are some serious copyright issues that you ought to be aware of when you are working with others to create content for you. Because, of course, if the content is on your business’ website or social media, it’s ultimately the business that’s going to be responsible for any issues or problems or disputes. I want to talk about two types of issues to think about. One is the contract with the individual or individuals doing the work who help create content; and two is the type of content that they create and where they get photos from, in particular.

First, contracts. When you hire someone to write or post or do social media for you, or create most types of content, it is generally a work for hire type of agreement. And that is a specific, important phrase in copyright law. What it means is that, unless you have a written agreement with the business or the person who’s making the content that transfers the copyright rights to you or to your business, you may not be the ultimate owner of the content. And this is shocking to many people. What do you mean? If I pay somebody to make a video for me, how could I not own it? Well, under copyright law, it’s a work for hire, and you need a specific contract with specific clauses about the ownership of the copyright in these types of materials. So be on the lookout for that. Make sure you have proper contracts. If you don’t, I recommend you look into it urgently and speak to an attorney.

The second issue I’m seeing come up more and more, where copyright cease and desist letters are received and someone says, “Well, I hired someone to do my newsletter, or do a blog post, or do the social media, and I wasn’t aware of where they got the content from.” Well, number one is you’re still probably ultimately responsible for any copyright violations. And number two is you want to make it clear when you’re working with a virtual assistant, or someone else creating this content–even with an employee creating the content, or even yourself–you have to be very careful especially of photos, of reusing them online. There are web-based fighters and robots that will go out in search for photos that are owned by photographers or by copyright licensing clearing houses, and they will find it eventually and they will send you a demand letter. And it will be for several thousand dollars or more, because copyright statutes provide for significant damages when there’s infringement.

And the infringement doesn’t have to be long. It doesn’t have to be substantial. It doesn’t have to have generated immediate sales or damages, necessarily, to be a potential copyright infringement concern. So I strongly recommend that you make sure you’re educating and discussing with those who are posting content about where they’re getting materials and photos from. The best, of course, is to be all original, but it is many times useful to get content of pictures or videos or animations about a particular topic. And there are lots of places to get them by paying online or having a membership. And then you can use them subject to their terms, which will generally be okay. But you want to make sure you review those terms and understand what you’re paying for and what you’re getting. There are sites that have free licenses for a certain type of content. You want to make sure that you really understand how those operate, what type of attribution is necessary in order to make sure you’re safe and protected under the license.

Those are the two important areas of copyright law that I want you to be aware about when you are building and creating content for your network, for your website, for your social media. If you take a little time to make sure that it’s set up properly with the contract and with educating people about the licenses and what type of content is safe, it’s going to save you a lot of stress and money in the long run.

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