The web and social media are all about sharing . . . sharing photos, sharing videos, sharing stories, sharing ideas. Engaging, entertaining content is the lifeblood of the online world and, in most cases, generated with the intent to be shared.

That being said, it’s important to give due credit when you share content. Content creators work hard at their craft and expect in return a little recognition for their efforts. Here are three things to know about citing shared content.

Read the Fine Print . . . or ask.

Most major content sites dedicate a page or section of their website to guidelines for sharing and reusing their content. Wikipedia, for instance, has an extensive guide to using their content. If you’re planning to borrow content from a site, check in the footer for links to copyright information or Terms and Conditions. If you can’t find such a resource and aren’t sure if you have permission to share someone’s content, just ask. Send a brief message (e.g., via email or the site’s Contact Us form) describing your intentions and requesting their permission. Ninety-nine times out of 100, they’ll be delighted to oblige and thank you for it.

Don’t Just Cite. Link.

It’s not enough just to mention the source. Whenever possible, provide a link back to the original content and/or a link to the creator’s website, Facebook page, or Twitter account. Links are the currency of the content economy. Corey Eridon at HubSpot offers an excellent overview of online citation methods for blog posts, social media, and visual content.

Improper Sharing Has Consequences.

Neglecting to give credit is not just bad etiquette; it could get you in hot water legally as well. Content creators are serious about copyright protections and are within their rights to file suit for violations, egregious or not. Paid content providers, such as stock photo sites, are particularly aggressive and will send you an enormous bill along with their nastygram. Don’t chance it – it’s not a matter of if they find out, but when.

Lem Purcell

About Lem Purcell

AVP, Digital Strategy
Tower Hill Insurance Group

Lem Purcell oversees digital marketing for Tower Hill Insurance Group and has over 15 years of experience in online marketing and technology.