Guard Your Goldmine from Internet Fraud

Have you ever seen your content on someone else’s website?

‘Frustrating, isn’t it?

I’m sure you’ve heard stories about people who have received letters from an attorney accusing them of using someone else’s images or blog content without permission. The next sentence in that letter is always a demand for payment for improper use. In response, that person probably said the same thing you might say, “But I didn’t know I couldn’t use that.”

Recently I was talking to a colleague who happens to be a copyright attorney. She mentioned that she gets a barrage of angry clients wanting to press charges for web theft. She went on to explain how frustrating this is for entrepreneurs who have paid their dues for their web content. Her most recent letter was sent to someone who had actually stolen someone else’s About Me content.

What could they possibly have been thinking? Was this person so insecure that they needed to be identified as someone else? The attorney was flabbergasted and said she had never seen a case like that in all her years in practice.

I know you think this will never happen to you, but as Nicole Kohler reported on the FX BLOG “Content theft happens every day, and the amount of stolen, lifted, and scraped content on the web is increasing. With content marketing a hotter topic than ever and websites desperate to rank, some unsavory individuals may choose to copy your hard work instead of doing their own.”

It’s not a matter of if, but when, so I’m going to give you some tips here on how to protect yourself.  Start by posting clearly written Terms and Conditions in the footer of your website.

They should include the following types of information, at a minimum.

  1. User rights and responsibilities

Licenses granted to the user. Licenses the user grants to the site owner concerning how the owner may use content contributed by the user.

Example: “In these Website Standard Terms And Conditions, “Your Content” shall mean any audio, video, text, images or other material you choose to display on this Website. With respect to Your Content, by displaying it, you grant [COMPANY NAME] a non-exclusive, worldwide, irrevocable, royalty-free, sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, adapt, publish, translate and distribute it in any and all media.

2. Permitted and Prohibited uses of the content on the site

For example, the making of copies, how/if content may be shared.

Example: “Other than content you own, which you may have opted to include on this Website, under these Terms, [COMPANY NAME] and/or its licensors own all rights to the intellectual property and material contained in this Website, and all such rights are reserved.”

Example: “You may view and/or print pages from [THIS SITE] for your own personal use    subject to restrictions set in these terms and conditions. “ “You must not: Republish material from [THIS SITE]; Sell, rent or sub-license material from [THIS SITE] ; Reproduce, duplicate or copy material from [THIS SITE] “

3. Accountability for online actions, behavior, and conduct

Code of conduct when using the site and consequences for violating these Terms and Conditions

Example: “In the case of a visitor who may infringe or repeatedly infringes the copyrights or other intellectual property rights of the Operator or others, the Operator may, in its discretion, terminate or deny access to and use of the Site. In the case of such termination, the Operator will have no obligation to provide a refund of any amounts previously paid to the Operator. “

4. Privacy policy outlining the use of personal data

Describe the personal information you collect, how you will use it, and how you will protect it. Since May 25, 2018, it should be compliant with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

Example: “We respect your privacy and are committed to protecting personally identifiable information you may provide us through the Website. We have adopted this privacy policy (“Privacy Policy”) to explain what information may be collected on our Website, how we use this information, and under what circumstances we may disclose the information to third parties.”

5. Disclaimer/Limitation of Liability clarifying the site’s legal liability for damages incurred by users 

Good faith efforts for accuracy and accessibility, limitations on damage claims, indemnities, warranties, process for filing and settling disputes, under what court jurisdiction, etc.

Example: “This Website is provided “as is,” with all faults, and [COMPANY NAME] makes no express or implied representations or warranties, of any kind related to this Website or the materials contained on this Website.”

6. Owner and Operator of the site. 

Be sure to include your company name, address, contact info, email address

Remember:

If it’s not in writing, there is no proof. Conversely, if terms are in writing, it is evidence you can use in court. Protection requires planning. Properly executed, the users of your site are legally bound to honor your TERMS AND CONDITIONS as a contract.

You may browse the Terms and Conditions posted on other sites, but do not copy them. One size does not fit all. Every website is unique, requiring its own specific Terms and Conditions. Additionally, Terms and Conditions on a website, are protected by U.S. Copyright Law.

Here’s how to avoid becoming a victim of Internet fraud.

Watch for next week’s episode to find out what to do when your content has been stolen. 

© 2019 Barbara Ingrassia  All Rights Reserved.

Information provided should not be construed as legal advice.

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