Content Theft
Recently Facebook feeds have been flooded with viral videos from a fellow named James Ellis. The videos he was sharing weren’t his work; however, he was passing it off as his own. What he was doing to amass a huge following on Facebook wasn’t related to his profession as a fitness trainer. He was pulling the hottest videos off the Internet, scrubbing them, and posting them to Facebook with the attribution, “***VIDEO FOUND ONLINE. All Credits to Video Owner.” No links were attached to the videos taking the viewer to the original source. That is content theft.

So is content theft when someone reads a blog post online and decides to share it. Except they curate it in a way where they copy and paste the entire post into their blog or website with a tiny print attribution with a link to the actual author. Done without asking the author if they would be OK with sharing their work. What is happening there is plagiarism where someone is taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.

Don’t be a content thief. Content theft can hurt your reputation. You can still share content legally.

What is the difference between copyright  and trademark?

I’ve found that unless you work with these ideas every day, they can cause confusion, even among seasoned professionals. Entire books have been written about public relations and advertising law. I’m just going to provide a simple overview on the most common terms.

A copyright  gives an originator of a creative work—including blog posts, drawings, and music—the right to publish and sell that work. On the other hand, a trademark is legally protected words or symbols or certain other distinguishing features representing products or services. Examples are the Nike “swoosh” logo and Apple Computer’s trademarked phase “There’s an app for that.” An idea itself cannot be copyrighted. Just the expression of it can. Procedures, processes, concepts, and principles cannot be copyrighted. Nor can unrecorded dance choreography and unrecorded lectures. Typefaces also do not qualify for copyright protection. Infringement involves any violation of the exclusive rights of a copyright or trademark owner. It can be unintentional or intentional. This is where plagiarism fits in.

How not to be a Content Thief?

It isn’t hard. You cite sources. There are different ways to do so in print and online. If you are posting a video online, then use the share options given, which link back to the owner. If there is a blog post that you think is great then cite it in your own blog post linking back to the original author.

If you suspect someone of content theft then don’t share their content. And if you are feeling bold (which I hope you do), call them out about it. They may or maybe realize they violating someone’s copyright.
Content theft is serious. It hurts those who created the work and the reputation of those being a content thief.
Disclosure: I’m not a lawyer and I don’t get to even play one on TV; however, I scored really high to advertising law and ethics section of the APR and as a PR professional, it is my business to have an understanding copyright and trademark law. If you have questions about trademarking talk to a lawyer or go to USPTO.

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