Business Website Content Copyright Violation Scare

    July 25, 2005

It seems everyone who has a website is worried about having their copyright violated by web content thieves. But are web content copyright violations really such a big problem?

True, web content theft has the potential to destroy the web completely if taken to extremes. What would be the point of creating anything if it were immediately stolen?

But by the same token, shoplifting has the potential to destroy retail if taken to its logical conclusion. Yet that hasn’t stopped chain stores from reaping a fortune. As in the shopping mall, so on the web: the system still works because the vast majority of users don’t steal.

One of the biggest hidden risks of web content theft is in fact that webmasters will overreact to the perceived threat. Could copyright theft fears create an atmosphere of mistrust among publishers, just as phishing and fraud have created an atmosphere of distrust among web users? While we are nowhere near that point yet, it’s still worth giving the hysteria a reality check before it gets out of control.

Dangers of Obsessing over Web Content Theft and Internet Copyright Violations

1. Unnecessary Web Content Copyright Registration

Some paranoid webmasters have actually gone to the trouble and expense of registering the copyright of their work with the government–often at the urging of paid services that charge a hefty fee. Yet copyright registration provides no protection against theft. It only provides statutory damages if somehow you ever take the thief to court, AND he or she shows up AND can pay (unlikely).

Copyright registration not only costs money. It also takes time. If everyone were to register copyright, the flow of information on the web would be impeded.

2. Chilling Effect of Web Content Copyright Violation Paranoia

Some extremely paranoid website owners have stopped publishing new content–a guaranteed Pyrrhic victory if there ever was one.

3. Wasted Energy and Resources

In short, paranoia over web content theft distracts crucial energy from the creative process of building a website. Every moment you spend wringing your hands over web content theft is a moment you aren’t spending building your site.

4. Mostly Fueled by Ignorance of the Real Internet Copyright Situation

Much of the anxiety around internet copyright violations is caused by three groundless myths about the dire consequences for your website if you are a victim:

a. internet copyright violations are hard to pursue (thanks to search engines, copyright violations are easier to identify and punish than in print);

b. your site will suffer a duplicate content penalty in search engines;

c. content theft will completely destroy the unique value of your website.

To realize how groundless the last two fears are, you only have to look at any newspaper website, stuffed with syndicated content from the newswires.

In short, though website content theft and other internet copyright violations corrode the ties that bind the web together, they must not distract from the real business of the web: sharing information, ideas, and art. Keep publishing new content. If you don’t, the web content thieves have won.

Joel Walsh, who has no affiliation with, writes on web content and business marketing. Contact Joel to discuss your business web content copywriting: