So far, both 2017 and 2018 are being lauded as pretty great years for marketing. Everything seems to be moving in the right direction, and content marketing is on the rise like never before. There might be some significant kinks that still need to be worked out, but overall, things are making slow progress.

But if that’s the case, why is stealing content still okay?

If you work for (or around) small businesses, you probably know at least one person who practices this art on a regular basis. “Let’s face it,” they’ll say, “I just don’t have the resources to take high-quality photos like this.” So instead of figuring out a way to create something new, they’ll simply take it from someone else, realizing the painful truth – that nobody will ever notice.

Of course, this kind of thing most famously happens with photographs, but that’s not to say that other kinds of content aren’t being stolen. Every single day, it’s easy to assume that videos, written pieces, infographics, and just about any other kind of content is being actively stolen.

And we’re not talking about things that are available as stock resources or in the public domain. What we’re discussing here is completely unwanted and unneeded theft.

How We Define ‘Theft’

Isn’t it fair to say that there’s nothing new under the sun? That the person you’re stealing from probably ‘stole’ their idea from someone else anyway?

stealing content
stevepb / Pixabay

Yes, that’s fair. However, that’s not the kind of stealing we’re talking about.

You can still be considered as a reputable company or individual even after stealing ideas on a regular basis. It’s the execution of that idea that you’ll have to be responsible for. Even if you started with the same exact idea as someone else, you’re bound to put your own spin on it just by taking the time to form opinions – that’s what separates thieves from the rest of us.

Stealing the execution of an idea is where marketers must draw the line. It can no longer be acceptable to take a finished work and make it your own.


Because we’re better than that. By participating in content marketing, we’re saying that we have something of value to give to our clients. We’re telling them that we have something fresh and new – something that they can’t find anywhere else. If we instead choose to steal content, we’re violating that agreement.

But what about content curation?

Curating content is a tricky business, and many fail to do it with any sort of class. Contrary to what may be popular belief, it’s possible to steal content as a curator. You may feel as if it’s a noble art to bring the best of the web together in one place, and you may be right…it all depends on how you do it.

By no means can you take anyone’s work without attributing it to them – unless you’ve been given permission to do so. As a curator, everything you post should be properly attributed.

But that’s the obvious part – what’s not so clear is what should be done when attribution isn’t enough. Lately, photographers on Instagram have been in uproar over major accounts that are sharing their photos with attribution.

Believe it or not, but they actually do have a case here – as the content creator, they own the copyright to the images they post. If a brand makes use of it, they’re not legally in the clear if they simply attribute a photo. In some cases, they may have to pay for its usage or avoid using it all together. It is their obligation to learn from the content creator about what a proper usage looks like.

Why We Shouldn’t Justify Stolen Content

stealing content
Pavlofox / Pixabay

On some level, stealing someone else’s work is bound to feel scummy – at least the first few times you do it. Because of this, we choose to compensate by coming up with reasons why its really not so bad. Here are a few of the most common reasons people choose to steal content and why each is irrelevant.

It Gives the Creator Exposure

Since when has un-attributed ‘exposure’ paid any of your bills? Most online creators are freelancers or small business owners that are trying to make a living for themselves – stealing their work might be making that more and more difficult for them.

Even if you do attribute the work properly, when was the last time you checked back to see who took the photo you’re viewing on a website? It doesn’t happen often, and that may be why some people expect to be paid for their work.

I Can’t Afford to Create This Kind of Work

Nobody’s asking you to create everything on your own if that’s simply not a possibility. But instead of stealing, check out the millions upon millions of stock resources that you can utilize. In some cases, you can legally take creative work without attributing it and do it all legally.

Everybody Steals Online

A lot of people do steal online. As much as digital has become part of a way of life, many still struggle to view digital pieces as real and valuable assets.

Regardless, if you’re doing content marketing, you’re probably representing a brand of some sort. Individuals may get away with some theft here and there, but brands should stay far from it as they have a reputation to uphold.

I Need This

Creative marketers know that there’s always another way to do anything. What you’re looking to do can be accomplished by your own efforts or at least by a legal means – no matter what the project entails. Do the hard work to legitimize you’re content…you’ll be glad that you did.

I Didn’t Know It Was Stealing

Well, now you now! I’m glad you took the time to read this!


Let’s take back content marketing, once and for all. Our clients, readers, viewers, and anyone else viewing our content expects only the highest standard, so let’s give that to them once again. We’re all capable of it.