Copyright One question that many content marketers struggle with is whether or not to copyright their content. I wish I would of thought about this before someone plagiarized my content but that being said, there are good arguments for and against.

The most obvious pro is that a copyright may protect a work from plagiarism and helps ensure that the creator gets credit. A copyright sign on an article signals to others that they should not use the work without permission. That’s especially important now that Google and other search engines penalize duplicate content. If someone steals your article, and worse yet, alters it with unsuitable information, your once-excellent blog post could be considered spam.

It’s important to remember that even if a copyright sign is attached to a work, unauthorized use could still occur. Unless you want to spend hours online trying to sniff out plagiarizers (and most likely failing at it), why bother? Add to this the fact that the very nature of content marketing is to get people to read and share your work! A copyright may be counter productive.

The Middle Ground

So that’s the conundrum. You want your content to be both shared and protected. Believe it or not, there is a way to get the best of both worlds. It’s called licensing, and you can do it free through Creative Commons, described by Wikipedia as “a non-profit organization…devoted to expanding the range of creative works available for others to build upon legally and to share.” It does this through creating and offering free of charge, various licenses that content creators can attach to their works. These licenses detail the ways that others can use a given work.

Creative Commons Licenses

There are six basic licenses, plus tools that you can use to let others know that you have placed your work in the public domain. (Works in the public domain may be used freely, as they have no intellectual property rights attached.) All licenses are irrevocable and they all require that the original creator of the content be credited (attribution).

1) Attribution 4.0 International — Allows people to adapt your work, as well as use it for commercial purposes. This is called a Free Culture License. Adaptations include such things as adding or altering illustrations, editing written content or using the work in a context that is different from the original, such as taking a serious news story and adapting it as satire.

2) Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International — Allows adaptations so long as the adaptors also share the adapted work with others. This is also a Free Culture License.

3) Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International — Allows adaptations but not if they will be used commercially. “Commercial use” refers to selling the content, charging admission to view it, or using it to sell another product or service.

4) Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International — Allows adaptations so long as they are not used for commercial purposes and the adaptors also share the adapted work with others.

5) Attribution-No Derivatives 4.0 International — Allows use of the work, including for commercial purposes, but no adaptations.

6) Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International — Allows use of the work with attribution, so long as it is not used commercially. No adaptations are allowed.

The Creative Commons site provides code that you can insert in a site’s metadata so that search engines recognize the license. This takes care of the duplicate content issue. The CC license graphic and copy alert would-be users to the terms under which they may use the work. The site also provides useful examples of how to mark your CC licensed content and how to provide attribution for any CC licensed works by others that you wish to use.


It’s not perfect but copyright laws are there to protect you, the writer.  It is your responsibility to educate yourself and your employees who deal with content marketing about content creation and copyright law restrictions. Even a little mistake can have expensive consequences. If you are not up to speed and have some doubts about the copyright laws surrounding blogs, images, or video avoid your best course of action is to contact the author to ask permission to use it.