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How to curate content ethically, avoid piracy

Posted by Chad O'Connor  December 9, 2013 11:00 AM

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[The We are the Creative Industries series: The Creative Industries - video game companies, design, marketing and architecture firms, and talented people who write books, design houses, shoot movies, make art and record music, just to name a few examples - are an important part of Massachusetts' economy, with $1 billion statewide impact and over 100,000 workers. Click here to learn more.]

Few (if any) marketers want to steal someone else’s content. Search engines may penalize them for not publishing original content and of course they could into legal trouble for copyright infringement. Some marketers shy away from curated content for fear of being accused of piracy or copyright infringement. Others republish content in its entirety without hesitation, thinking everything published online is in the public domain (spoiler alert: it’s not).

But there is a happy medium we call ethical curation where you republish only a small part of the original piece and attribute the original source in compliance with fair use. Ethical curators also add value to the conversation by including their own perspective.

Here’s a look at five strategies that will help you curate ethically and avoid piracy (these are just guidelines, so if you need more specifics, consult an intellectual property lawyer).

1. Include a variety of sources.
Curating articles from only a handful of sources could be seen as a cop-out or even a way to profit off the content created by those sources. To avoid this perception, try to limit the number of articles you share from any single source and instead read widely to find relevant content from all over the web. This approach is more valuable to readers because it introduces them to a greater variety of ideas and voices. It’s also better for the marketer because it positions them as an expert with a pulse on what’s new in that niche.

2. Credit the original author.
Some curators don’t credit the original creator or they mistakenly credit another curator instead of the original author. It may take a few extra clicks to identify the original source but it’s worth the extra work. Not crediting the author at all is unethical and makes it tougher for readers to find the original piece if they want to read the entire piece. Linking to the original author also increases the potential for linkbacks to your own site.

3. Give it a new title.
Never copy and paste the original title and use it as your own title. If you do this, you could be competing with the original publisher in search results, which could ruffle their feathers, especially if search engines rank your curated version ranks higher than the original. Retitling the content before you post it lets you incorporate topic-specific keywords that may not be mentioned in the original article. Through the title, you can also play up certain aspects of the topic that might resonate with her your readers and add your own point of view to the piece.

4. Pay attention to image copyright.
Unless you get permission to share the original, full-sized image, only share a portion of its original form, such as a smaller thumbnail, when you publish your piece. In the case Kelly v. Arriba Soft Corp, an appeals court ruled that using thumbnail images is fair use. As an alternative, tools like TinEye and Creative Commons could help you identify other images that don’t have potential royalty or copyright concerns.

5. Add your own commentary.
Don’t just summarize or paraphrase what the original author said. Give your own opinion or context that isn’t included in the original piece so you’re adding value for the reader. This helps differentiate your curated content from others and hopefully sidesteps potential legal or ethical concerns. While you’re writing your own commentary, make the parts in your own words longer than any sections you quote from the original piece.

Pawan Deshpande is the founder and CEO of Curata, a provider of a business-grade content curation platform that enables marketers to acquire and retain customers through curated content. You can follow him on Twitter, Google+, or Quora. For examples and more tips on ethical curation, download Curata’s latest ebook Content Marketing Done Right.


[We are thankful for Global Business Hub’s support of the Creative Industries. Please note: This article does not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development or its Creative Economy Industry Director for the Commonwealth, nor is it an endorsement of any views, products, or opinions contained therein. The author is solely responsible for the content.]

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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