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Using Content from Other Sites on Your Site

2012 November 21
by Contributor

Using content from other sites is a very effective strategy for filling up your own website. This is one of the areas of web development, however, where there is definitely a right and wrong way to do something. This is not a matter of opinion: it’s a matter of law. If you plan to use content from other sites, here are some strategies that you can use to try to keep yourself from doing it in precisely the wrong way.

1: Always Ask

If you run into content that you would really like to feature on your own website, you have to ask the original content creator if it’s okay to use it. Asking the original content creator is imperative. Other people may have reproduced that content on their own website after getting permission to do so. The fact that they have permission to run that content does not mean that you have permission to run that content. Think of it like a football game. The television station has permission to run the football game from the NFL but you most certainly do not have permission to charge admission to watch it at your home.

2: Government Sources

Most of the time, anything produced by a government is in the public domain. Because tax dollars were used to produce the content, it belongs to everybody equally. There are some things you are going to want to avoid, however.

Recently, there have been a lot of websites that have gone online that publish government information that was never actually released officially. Do yourself a favor and avoid reproducing any of this information. It may be available on other websites, but that doesn’t mean that you’re not going to get in trouble for running it on yours.

Archive.org is a great source for freely available, government produced video, audio and written content. You can also check any government agency from whom you may need information – the IRS, for example – and see if it’s okay to reproduce their information on your own website. Most of the time, you’ll find that it is.

3: Video

Some video is freely available to use on your own website and other video is most certainly not available to use. Make certain that you’re not using anything that is actually pirated without knowing it. You’ll oftentimes find videos on the Internet – sometimes on social sharing sites – that have a disclaimer that says the video is copyrighted material that is being used as a parody or in another way that allows it to freely be used. If you’re generating a profit off your website, don’t trust this. The person who wrote that next to the video may have no idea what they’re talking about.

Video that is intended to be shared will generally come with an embed link feature or will encourage you to link to the video itself. If you have to go to great pains to add a link to a video on your site, it may be because the original producer didn’t want you to do that in the first place.

4: Creative Commons

There is a lot of content out there released under the Creative Commons licensing scheme. This allows the content creator to place certain restrictions on content and to allow it to be used in specific ways. Even if you see this licensing on some sort of content, try to contact the creator and verify that it’s okay to use it.

Provided you pay attention to people’s copyright interests and you exercise a bit of common sense, you should be able to reproduce content on your website, enhancing what you have, and to do so without getting into any trouble.

Matt Dandurand is the CEO of MediaContour.com, offering web design in Los Angeles, CA.

Image Credit: 1.

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