Respect, ethics, love, and Copyright

Filed as Features on August 13, 2006 4:36 pm

For years after leaving college, my partners in BlogMedia (then called something else) worked primarily as consultants. We did programming, systems administration, and database work for a variety of firms.

Creative Commons Laptop

One client in Boston got us interested in making money online rather than simply coding the backends of websites for others. We did some research, and before long, decided to make our mark by launching some humor websites.

Now humor is a fickle thing. What I think is funny is not the same as my partner thought was funny.. and my wife has a whole other definition of funny. But to stay current and make good money on a humor website, you need a continuous flow of content coming in.. and it’s even better if its fresh, viral content that will drive traffic to your website…

Thus began the eternal circle of trying to find the latest and greatest in content and posting it on the humor site… after all, there’s a ton of content out there.. just use Google images, grab some cartoons or funny pictures, and go to town….

This worked well for awhile – my site grew and grew.. and then I joined a private humor webmaster community. This was an even better place to be as there was a very passionate community that shared information, including monetization tactics, new affiliate programs, and new sources for content.

The community had an interesting mix of folks. Many ran humor sites, some ran affiliate programs, others were the artists and creators that made our business possible.

And it was quickly apparant that the artists were not happy..

Despite this being somewhat of a close-knit community – the community was divided between those that felt a moral and ethical obligation to follow the law.. and those that felt that any content on the internet was theirs for the taking…

Two of my good friends in the community were artists. One was an incredibly talented poet and writer… the other, a nationally recognized photographer and cartoonist. Both of them made their living by licensing their content – as well as running their own humor websites.

This battle amongst our community eventually led to the artists (and I – for I supported their stance) to being kicked out of this community so that the content thieves could continue their work.

And this battle continues to this day..

In the end, this story isn’t really about the humor website community. It’s about how we choose to conduct business.

It’s about the choices that we make…

In the blogging world, we live and die by our content. What we choose to write about, how we choose to market that content, how we write our headlines, who we link to.. and so on.. Our living is wrapped up in our content.

After all, no one would read The Blog Herald if we didn’t provide interesting and compelling content every day of the week.

In this business, it’s the content creators that are king. They create the graphics, the designs, the photographs, and the content that makes our world go around.

Now, you may not like copyright laws. And there’s much to be said about the approach of organizations like MPAA and RIAA who are going to extreme lengths in order to “protect” the content of their member organizations and licensees.

But you have to respect the role of the person that creates the content. Particularly in the blogosphere, where it’s often small groups of folks – or small businesses – that are working to create and market this content. They take the time to craft something with art, time, experience, and patience.. they do it for you…

Don’t we owe them the same level of respect?

It’s really simple:

  • Don’t use content that isn’t yours unless you have proper permission from the content creator/owner
  • Understand the limitations and guidelines that go along with Creative Commons licensing use
  • Don’t use content that’s marked ‘All Rights Reserved’ unless you have specific permission
  • Respect the restrictions called for by content creators/owners – including links, attribution, and so on..
  • And remember that it’s not your content to do with as you please…

Photograph courtesy of Pegatinas Creative (flickr)

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  1. By Lauren posted on August 13, 2006 at 10:46 pm
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    Horray! Excellent explanation and simple guidelines. I am glad that this issue is still being discussed, especially so clearly and rationally.

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  3. By Liz Strauss posted on August 14, 2006 at 8:16 pm
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    You couldn’t have explained it more simply or more elegantly.

  4. By Matt posted on August 14, 2006 at 11:16 pm
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    Thanks folks!!

    ~Matt

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  6. By Benjamin Solah posted on August 15, 2006 at 11:01 am
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    Excellent advice. I often feel powerless when dealing with issues like this. Someone once stole a whole post of mine about Scott Parkin and posted it to his blog. Thankfully, he credited me and linked me. However, I can’t help but feel that this blog cheated me, and his readers; it was a meager blog and sent me next to nothing traffic.

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