Own Your Content

By Robyn Greenspan

If you publish original content on your Web site, you should have some measures in place to deter others from laying claim to your creativity.

The renegade essence of the Internet often leads users to believe that everything online is free and available. Well, unless the creator specifically states that the work is available for public domain -- it isn't. Granted, after a period of time, even copyrighted material expires and falls into the realm of public domain but Internet content is still too new to fall into that category.

A copyright basically protects the creative and tangible work of any individual -- a story, painting, sculpture, poem, etc. This is unlike intellectual property (http://ecommerce.internet.com/ ...11_517201,00.html) which refers to a concept or idea and carries it's own parameters for infringement protection.

The Berne Convention (http://www.britannica.com/ ...8%2C00.html) automatically protects the tangible original efforts of an individual -- meaning that even in the absence of a copyright symbol, the work is secured against theft or plagiarism. As an added assurance that your creative work doesn't wind up unaccredited on another Web site, you should include this standard form of copyright notification:

"Copyright [dates] by [author/owner]"

While copyrighting your work could offer some legal protection, the best preventative may be to allow individuals a simple method for requesting permission to re-purpose content. A standard form, such as this one -- http://www.internet.com/corporate/reprints.html#Reprints -- can be used by others to secure consent for licensing, re-purposing, reprints and screenshots.

The form can provide some control of where your work gets published and allows you to check that attributions are always in place. One of the stipulations for permitting others to use your work is to make sure that it is attributed to you and it should include a statement that it is reprinted from your Web site.

When possible, permit other sites to link to the particular content on your site. This will effectively direct traffic back to your site and all your attributions are guaranteed. With the proper control, you could generate some free publicity and perhaps even additional revenue for your e-commerce site.

Create a database that compiles your re-purposed content and periodically check that you are still getting credited for your original work. Include the sites that link to you too so you can monitor incoming traffic flow to your site.

A common misconception is that if the person who "borrows" the content doesn't charge others to view it, it's not a copyright violation. That is untrue. If you created and posted original content on the Internet, you are the sole owner. As the owner, you can use your discretion as to where you would like your creative efforts re-purposed.

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