The Most Common Form of Copyright Infringement, and How to Avoid It

Posted on Apr 24, 2013
By Rhonda Hurwitz

Sometimes, conversations about copyright veer into the realm of ethics and lawfulness, but today we'd like to have a more pragmatic conversation.

If you publish online, you want people to spread your content.

It’s also likely that being known as the source of what you write has a direct impact on your income.

The messy truth is that the most common form of online sharing -- copy and paste -- actually stands in between you and these important online goals.

When readers are inspired to reuse your content, many just don’t realize that they shouldn't copy and paste at will. Yet, out of habit, that’s exactly what most people do!

Copy and Paste: The Most Common Form of Sharing

Would it surprise you to know that most readers prefer to cut-paste-email or cut-paste-post to a social network, instead of just sharing a link?

Even though most sites provide a wide range of social sharing buttons, as well as emailing options, only about 20% of all shared content is shared in this way! About 80% of all sharing is cut-and-paste sharing!

Unfortunately, when shared and reshared in this way -- cut and pasted without permission, spread without attribution -- your online content loses its impact, and its value.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

A Built-in Alternative to Copyright Infringement

When the iCopyright toolbar is installed on your site, our EZ Excerpt feature builds a different set of choices into copy and paste.

  • As someone is mousing over your copy, preparing to copy and paste an excerpt, a pop-up appears, prompting them to consider their use.
  • If the reader determines that fair use applies to the use of an excerpt, they can simply click "Quit asking me" and are free to copy/paste.
  • If the reader determines that the reuse situation warrants it, for instance reuse in a commercial context, our system offers the reader an opportunity to obtain a license.
  • Attribution is automatic, and travels the web with your content.

When permission to reuse content is instant, easy and inexpensive (or free), respecting your copyrights gets a whole lot easier.

Are We Copyright Idealists … or Realists?

Of course, for a mutually supportive arrangement like this to work, all parties have to be willing to participate:

  • The online content creator needs to install an automatic system (our toolbar) that clarifies rights and makes licensing easy and permission seamless.
  • The online content user has to be willing to do the right thing. Instead of just right-clicking and copying and pasting, respect the creators’ copyrights when presented with the option.

Win-win … online writers empowered, and readers doing the right thing, in this digital age. Sounds idealistic and a bit utopian, we know!

There's a fair amount of confusion when it comes to copyright. And, changing ingrained habits is never easy, as anyone who has ever joined a gym on January 1st well knows! But, as more people adopt this approach it will become the new standard.

So what say you? Are we copyright idealists, or realists? Let us know in the comments.

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