Close your eyes and take a moment to mentally run through the content on each of the pages on your company’s website. Does a red flag (with a skull and cross bones emblazoned upon it) pop up anywhere in relation to potential copyright issues? If so, it’s time to have your local digital media expert take a look and consider removing any questionable material. Because you might just be a pirate.
Google was recently asked to take down 100 million links to websites that contain material that is in violation of copyright laws. These requests are largely being made under the provisions of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act.
Most of the link removal requests are from Degban, a digital content protection specialist, and have typically been related to file-sharing services. You know these sites. Let’s say you didn’t get to catch the latest Hollywood blockbuster before it was out of theaters, but you just can’t stand waiting those few months before it makes its DVD or Blueray debut. How in the world are you going to see this amazing film?
Easy, just google something along the lines of “free movie streaming websites” and tons of sites will pop up that will allow you to stream the latest and greatest hits starring some of your favorite actors. While this may seem wonderful, there are so many reasons that you should avoid this as a viewer. Opening up your computer to viruses is one. As a business, however, the damage can come in the form of links to pages on your website being blacklisted.
Chances are you aren’t running a movie-streaming site, so there is a good chance you are safe there. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be worried. It’s never a good thing to be reprimanded by Google, so get your team together and do a thorough audit of the links on your website.
Worried an effort like this might break the bank? Not so. If you have a giant budget, of course you can bring in a team of SEO experts and have them scour your site. However, if your pockets are a bit on the smaller side, never fear, you can enlist the help of your in-house experts.
Take the time to do a thorough review of all the pages on your website. You don’t have to be an SEO expert to do this. Create an internal team comprised of individuals who are thoroughly in-tune with your website and its inner workings. Then develop a strategy for reviewing each and every page on your site for copyrighted material.
This is not in reference to outgoing links from your webpages. As long as you are running a high-quality, reputable site, the companies that are seeing traffic from those links likely won’t raise issue. However, if you are posting articles on your blog that were written by others, video that is clearly copyrighted, or any other type of material that is being misrepresented as your own, ensure that you have permission or remove it immediately.
If you need to remove material that is a crucial part of the architecture of your site, then come up with a contingency plan to replace it with similar material. But make sure you own the copyright this time. Trust me, the extra time that it takes for you to generate the content will be worth it. For starters, you will not face punishment, and on top of that you will have some of your own content that visitors to your website and social media pages can share.
The best advice I can offer is to generate all of your own content in-house or by hiring a content marketing firm. You can buy the rights to the material you use or pay licensing fees. As long as you take these precautions, you can rest easy at night. Anything questionable must go. Google is cracking down on violators, so don’t be one. It’s as simple as that.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, if you are the accuser, Google offers instructions on their website detailing how to make a claim. However, Google also adamantly warns against falsifying a claim.
Don’t look at this as a way to run a sneaky campaign against the links on your competitor’s website. “Don’t make false claims!” It’s written right there on the instructions page. So unless you want to feel the wrath of the most powerful force on the Internet, I would recommend heeding that warning.
Oh, and there’s always the off chance that you might end up blowing the whistle on yourself. Don’t think it’s possible? Just ask Microsoft. Yes, that Microsoft, the one associated with that Bill Gates fellow.
Microsoft hired a company to scour the web for any links to copyrighted material that might exist. Good idea, right? On paper, yes, but problems arose when the digital protection agency that they hired ended up asking Google to remove links that Microsoft itself had placed on the web.
So the moral of the story is, whether you are the accuser, or you are simply checking your site to make sure you are not in violation, make sure you do your due diligence and don’t be a victim on either end of the spectrum. While most of the sites that are being punished are ones that are in blatant violation, there is an off chance that something copyrighted may have slipped passed your editors and made its way onto your site.
Get your team in gear and remove any links from your site that you think might be in violation. Then develop a plan to avoid this in the future. And don’t cry wolf. You wouldn’t want to be the victim of false accusations.
Anthony Gaenzle – Director of Marketing