Content Curation: Copyright, Ethics & Fair Use
Posted in Best Practices, Exclusives By Pawan Deshpande On February 20, 2013
12 Best Practices
Kimberley Isbell of the Nieman Journalism Lab cited a Harvard Law report and published an extensive post on the legal considerations surrounding news aggregation. Her summarized best practices and recommendations are below, along with my justifications on why it’s in your best interests as a marketer to follow them as I wrote in an earlier blog post.
Best Practice #1:
Reproduce only those portions of the headline or article that are necessary to make your point or to identify the story. Do not reproduce the story in its entirety.
Why you should follow this as a marketer: The more you link to third parties’ original content, the more likely they are to link back to you—which ultimately improves your SEO.
Best Practice #2:
Try not to use all, or even the majority, of articles available from a single source. Limit yourself to those articles that are directly relevant to your audience.
Why you should follow this as a marketer: A good content curator is selective and only links to the most relevant content on a specific topic or issue. They do not simply reproduce every article under the sun, otherwise it would be aggregation, not curation.
Best Practice #3:
Prominently identify the source of the article.
Why you should follow this as a marketer: Demonstrating that you have curated content from a wide variety of sources, and content from some very reputable sources, makes you more credible as well.
Best Practice #4:
Whenever possible, link to the original source of the article.
Why you should follow this as a marketer: Again, linking to the original source may drive traffic away from you momentarily, but makes you more credible for identifying relevant content in other well-known publications.
Best Practice #5:
Whenever possible, provide context or commentary for the material you use.
Why you should follow this as a marketer: The more original context you provide, the more of your message you can insert into third party content, and the easier it is for your audience to understand why this content is relevant to them. Furthermore, if your audience values your commentary, they are far more likely to return to you rather than the original sources in the future.
More Best Practices
Aside from those derived from the Harvard Law report, here are some additional best practices I recommend.
Best Practice #6:
When sharing images, unless you have explicit permission to share a full-size image, always share a thumbnail image at most.
Why you should follow this: Best Practice #1, of only sharing a portion of any original article, pertains solely to text content. These days people are curating other forms for media, such as images. In the same spirit, you should only share a portion of the original image by using a thumbnail, the same way Google Images does. Apparently the Ninth Circuit United States Court of Appeals decision in the case Kelly v. Arriba Soft Corp ruled that using thumbnail images amounted to fair use.
Best Practice #7:
Link back to the original article prominently, not buried all the way down at the end of the post.
Why you should follow this: Best Practice #4 (whenever possible, link to the original source of the article) doesn’t prescribe where that link should be. Some publications, such as the Huffington Post, have received flak for burying links to the original source way at the bottom of a paraphrased article. This discourages readers from visiting the original publisher and does not fairly reward them with traffic.
Best Practice #8:
If you are re-posting an excerpt from the original article, make sure your excerpt only represents a small portion of the original article.
Why you should follow this: While Best Practice #1 recommends never to republish an entire original article, there’s still a lot of latitude here to upset a publisher by posting most of their original content. To go a step further, only republish a small portion of the original content at most.
Best Practice #9:
If you are reposting an excerpt from an original article, make your commentary longer than the excerpt you are reposting.
Why you should follow this: This is my personal favorite best practice. In conjunction with Best Practice #5 (when possible, provide context or commentary for the material you use), you can ensure you are adding substantial value to content you curate, and simultaneously minimize the amount of original content you re-post, by writing more commentary. It’s also good for SEO because it reduces duplicate content.
Best Practice #10:
Retitle any and all content you curate.
Why you should follow this: There are three main benefits to retitling content you curate that are beneficial to both you and the original publisher:
(1) You are no longer competing for the same title on search results. This helps the original source publisher who would be annoyed if your curated version ranks higher than the original version in search engines.
(2) You can add your own spin. It’s fun to retitle content and add your spin to make a title more provocative and appealing. This is particularly important if you are posting curated content on Twitter where your audience can only decide whether to click through based on the title you provide.
(3) Incorporate your own keywords. You can incorporate topic-specific keywords that may not be mentioned in the original article title that are important to you.
Best Practice #11: If you are using a share bar or iFrame, give the reader an option to close the iFrame or Share Bar to view the content without it.
Why you should follow this: Share Bars and iFrames around an original publisher’s content can be annoying to readers. Also, because the browser address bar shows the curator’s URL instead of the publisher’s URL, it can be deceiving. While use of an iFrame is not unethical, to be polite, you should offer readers to ability to close the iFrame and view the original article directly on the publisher’s site. I have written extensively about consideration for using iFrames before.
Best Practice #12:
Don’t use no-follows on your links to the original publisher’s content.
Why you should follow this: The no-follow attribute on hyperlinks tells search engines not to give SEO credit to the site you have linked to. This attribute was developed to prevent search engines from crediting spam links left by bots and other nefarious services in user-generated sections of sites such as comment fields. Unfortunately, some curation platforms have employed no-follow attributes on links pointing to the original content publisher’s site. Curators who engage in such practices maliciously withhold SEO credit from the original publisher, while simultaneously using someone else’s work for their own gain.