One of the most difficult things for a web designer or webmaster to do is to keep his/her client (or employer) out of legal trouble. If the owner of a company hands the web designer content then it is assumed to be unique and able to be used freely on the website and/or on other places for online marketing purposes. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case!
One recent example was an attorney who was given what appeared to be “value-added” articles, rich with good content and potentially helpful information to anyone who ended up on his website. Unfortunately, only 20% (at most) of the text content was actually truly unique. The other 80% was copied from competitors. To say that they would be happy to sue this attorney for posting their content without permission is an understatement!
How do you address that kind of situation?
One way, with text-based content, is to pay for a few credits on a service like Copyscape.com. In addition to taking snippets of content (roughly 20-30 word search strings) and entering them into Google to see if the content already exists, a service like Copyscape can help you “mine” deeper and determine if the content truly is unique. If so, or if you wrote the content yourself by hand, then you can feel safe using the content.
The attorney had to have his web designer create new content for each practice area (website silo) such as the content found here. Obviously, this took time and some expense to rewrite the content; but the prevention of lawsuits may well have been worth it.
Protecting yourself from image copyright violations is tougher as the meta data in images is not as easy to track if it belongs to someone else. The safe strategy is to purchase the rights to stock photos, take the photos yourself, or have a photographer shoot images for you to which you contractually have 100% rights to use in any way you deem appropriate. Should you have any questions then contact the owner of a photo for which you plan to add to your website and get written or e-mailed permission to use should you give credit. Be sure to ask how the photo credit should be labeled and where such credit needs to appear.