September 10, 2015: Last week, we discussed the issue of content theft, focusing on the egregious example of @fatjewish (AKA Josh Ostrovsky)— who successfully monetized his content thievery into a burgeoning social media empire , a lucrative Hollywood contact, and a book deal.
Ostrovsky might be taking a lot of heat on social networks right now, but he’s hardly alone. Content theft is a big, corrosive problem. Yes, there are tools that content creators can use to make content scraping harder, but determined thieves will always find a way around any programmatic hurdles put into their way.
It’s demoralizing for creative people — who put their hearts and souls into original content — to see their works stripped of attribution, replicated out of context, and monetized by content thieves, but there’s no technological solution to the issue right now, and there may not ever be one.
Yes, it’s demoralizing. But the fact that there are a lot of Josh Ostrovskys out there doesn’t mean that you have to be one. Don’t submit to the temptation — although it’s a big one — to simply cut-and-paste your way into a Rolls Royce and a seven-figure CAA deal.
Content theft is wrong — and it’s also dumb. There are thousands of people who’ve made their original works available for you to use via Public Domain or Creative Commons licenses. There are millions of works that you can use — with proper attribution of course — without the risk of getting busted and outed as a content thief. You can use these sites as a starting point for ideation about your own content representing your own brand:
5 Free Image Sites – From one of our earlier pieces. Finding good stock images that are affordable is hard. This is a great resource!
Project Gutenberg – What is a better source to use for classic quotes, story ideas, and content text? This is the Project Gutenburg US Site. Make sure to check for what version of Gutenburg contains rights to free works for your locality.
The Prelinger Archives has been collected by Getty Images, containing thousands of “ephemeral” titles by the Library of Congress. Many of these are rights free, but not all of them – make sure to check the rights box located to the left. But the huge number of images can still provide inspiration for creating your own unique designs.
Comic Book Plus – An archive of rights free comic books that predate the 1972 limits of the Berne Convention and are not owned by either or the major comic book distributors in the US. Many of these works date from the 30s and the 40s. These can be repurposed for GIFS and other unique content.
Wiki Commons – This site offers more than 27 million images, many of them historical, but many topical and contemporary. You’ll have to examine each image’s description to determine whether you must attribute, and how you must attribute, but that’s a fair price to ask for so much great, free content.
Flickr Commons — Did you know that Flickr has a huge public photo archive you can draw upon? The images in Flickr Commons were contributed by many libraries, the Internet Archive, The U.S. National Archives, Library of Congress, and other sources. While these images aren’t in the public domain, there are no known copyright holders, which means that you will generally be safe using them.
A NOTE ABOUT RIGHTS – Every content creator should know the basics of IP law for their own jurisdiction. Thieves are jerks, heroes know the rules and attribute correctly. Make sure you’re aware of these basics.
No go forth. Be strong. Be original. Be honest. Give credit where credit is due. Watch your back — but don’t stop creating.
You might not get rich doing this, but at least you’ll be able to sleep at night.
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