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Inbound Marketing Blog

    How to Share Quality Content Without Stealing

    Posted by Michael Dooley

    Give Credit Where Credit Is Due

    The Internet is the world’s largest open forum and the largest resource for referencing information. As a consequence, Internet content is stolen, plagiarized, and used without crediting the source more than any other information resource. Marketers have a responsibility, more than the casual Internet user, to hold themselves to a standard of content marketing ethics. By sharing content unethically, marketers put themselves, their companies, and their clients in a position where there can be legal repercussions. Often when content is shared improperly, it comes from an ignorance of content marketing ethics or lack of knowledge on how to credit content properly. Below is a guide for content marketers to share content without being an Internet crook.

    Written Content

    Content marketers should think of themselves as journalists and hold themselves to a similar ethical standard with the content they produce. Written content is often copied and pasted between websites without being quoted or attributed. This is the equivalent to a newspaper reporter copying another article word for word into their own. A simple way to avoid this is by attributing the written content as a direct quote or prefacing the content with a phrase like “according to...” If a content marketer is paraphrasing written content from another source, footnotes can be used at the bottom of the page to attribute the source without interrupting the content.


    Photos and other images are shared improperly online usually because of ignorance to the rule of crediting images. A common misconception is that any photo found on Google Images can be used freely on a website or within other content. However, anyone who shares images in that fashion may face legal action from the owner of the images and could be required to pay a fine. The easiest way to avoid image credit issues is to simply take the photos yourself. When marketers can’t take their own photos, free image resources are available with websites such as freedigitalphotos.net. Marketers can download these images free of charge and only have to credit the creator of the image within their post. There are many other stock image sources online that can be used at the preference of the marketer, but the creator of the image absolutely must be credited every time. The attribution should include the name of the creator and the link to the source of the image. This rule doesn’t just apply to photos; the same goes for any infographics, memes, illustrations, or images of any kind. The safe rule to follow: If you didn’t snap the photo or create the image, somebody has to be credited for it.


    In similar fashion to images, videos are shared improperly, usually because people don’t realize attribution is required. Videos are the property of the creators and as such must be credited for their use. The most common source for videos to be stolen or copied from is YouTube, which also happens to be one of the easiest sources to credit. Just as images are credited, video attributions require the author’s name and source link to the video. For a YouTube video, marketers can include a link to the author’s YouTube channel in the attribution to easily give credit. Videos found elsewhere on the Internet can be credited in similar fashion.

    Use Creative Tools

    Endless amounts of content can be found online and nearly anything can be used if credited properly. But the best way to assure you are sharing content ethically is to create the content yourself. Many tools are available online and applications offline that can assist marketers to create their own original content. Instead of copying and crediting old memes from a website, marketers can use online generators to create original memes or use photo editing applications to build them. Recording and uploading your own YouTube videos for free cuts out any concern of attribution and opens up another channel to redirect visitors to more of your content. The great thing about creating your own original content as a marketer is that your content then becomes open to be shared. Other marketers, who follow content marketing ethics, will be able to share your creations and credit them with links, which will redirect visitors to you. 

    Many content marketers come from a journalism background and already have an idea of the code of ethics journalists follow. Media outlets hold their journalists to these ethics to protect both the journalist and outlet from legal consequences. What content marketers need to realize is they have the same responsibility to protect themselves, their company, and most importantly, their clients. Crediting creative content online is just as easy as searching for it, so marketers don’t have an excuse for taking shortcuts. Developing a consistent habit of following content marketing ethics will allow marketers and their agencies to service their clients effectively, without any interruption or negative repercussions. 

    Image credit: freedigitalphotos.net/chanpipat

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