Monday, September 9, 2013

It’s Web Copy, Not Copy the Web

Richard Aycock’s company, Widget Avenue, was growing and he decided it was time to redo his website. He had heard people talking about SEO, keywords, quality content, site maps and crawlability; he just didn't know what all that stuff meant. What he did know was benchmarking. All the clichés, “work smart, not hard”, “don’t reinvent the wheel”, “the right tool makes the job easy” became cliché because they were so true. Richard figured the best thing he could do would be to search the Internet for other businesses doing the same type of work as his company.

When I search Google for things my business does, this company keeps showing up in the search results, Richard thought. I’ll just copy the stuff on this website and put it on my website. After all, benchmarking is about seeing what the competition is doing well and figuring out how to do that particular something as well as your best competitor. Right?

Often times, people don’t think about the consequences of their actions. Add to that the immeasurable amount of information on the Internet and we find ourselves living in a society that believes if something is online, it belongs to the world. We all own the English language, some more than others. It’s the arrangement of words to convey a thought or concept, though, that makes up intellectual property. Some people try to lay claim to certain phrases like “let’s get ready to rumble”, “you’re fired” and “I am”, but these phrases are so commonplace it’s hard to make a strong case without a lot of money to back up the claim.  

Musicians find themselves in lawsuits over songs sounding like other songs or containing the same lyrics. Sometimes it’s called “sampling” and the “artist” can get away with it. But we know better. It’s plagiarism. A high-school student writing a term paper, copying a section from a book word-for-word without giving credit to the original author will receive a failing grade from his teacher. A journalist stealing content from another journalist without giving credit or receiving approval will be fired—and likely have a hard time finding another writing job.

So, what of Mr. Aycock? What Richard didn't consider was that he would forever be a plagiarist. To top it off, that web content he stole now has less value. The best content is relevant AND original. If it’s only one or the other, it may as well be neither. Richard acted without thinking, and the result is, the company he stole content from will write new, better content.

Don’t be a Richard. Do your research. Write your own content. Or if you prefer, hire a professional to write it for you.

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