Three Scenarios Where Copyright Negligence Can Backfire On Your Business

Three Scenarios In 2009, The Guardian reported an amusing story. An American tourist visiting Prague, Czech Republic was walking down a street when he was suddenly taken aback. Thousands of miles away, there was the picture of his friend’s family outside a grocery store on a banner advertising their home delivery service. He e-mailed it to them, and it turned out that his friend’s wife had posted it on her blog and on social media. The shopowner in Prague had no idea that the image belonged to someone else, believing it to be “computer-generated”, and later apologized.

The shop owner got off easy, but for businesses hoping to strike it big in the digital world today, hoping to attract millions of visitors to their site, one can never be too careful. The risks of a fallout are often much higher. Here are a few scenarios where businesses not aware of copyright infringement risks may end up losing it all.

  1. Hiring Freelancers without Checking Credentials or Work History: Yes, getting freelancers on board to tackle one-time projects is often a good idea where a business cannot afford to sustain a full team. But there can be risks involved. Some freelancers may charge less money, but like the shop owner, may pick up images for your website from a random Google search. Due diligence in this area is the responsibility of both the business and the freelancer, and care must be taken to use the right material.

  2. Quoting the Right Sources: Be it press releases, or quotes from famous personalities, make sure you get them straight from the horse’s mouth. There is no room for inaccuracy in this instantaneous, reactive and hashtag heavy world of retweets and viral moments. If you quote someone incorrectly, or post the wrong information, internet trolls are the least of your worries. Bad PR will surely follow, costing you dearly in brand equity and taking major effort to correct and rebuild. One can end up losing business, trust and the loyalty of their customers.

  3. Plagiarism: This one is an absolute no-no. It is a sin even punishable in college. If you copied somebody else’s term paper, you were sure to fail or worse, suspended or expelled. But what sometimes makes it tricky is the degree of copied content. Some pieces of work may often have certain repeating words of clauses, perhaps following a certain line of argument. And businesses may feel that what they are trying to do is justified. But it is always a better idea to avoid stepping into such a minefield. Remember the identical paragraph from the First Lady’s speech used at this year’s Republican National Convention? The better advice would be to quote directly and then form your own argument.

These are some ways a business may end up suffering with respect to copyright issues and intellectual property rights with online content. One can never be too careful.