Fair Use 101: How to Build an Online Presence Without Stealing

By Matthew King | Branding, Marketing and Advertising

Jun 08
Fair Use

It’s no secret that offering great content is one of the key components to help you build an online presence for your business. Like great music, however, “content” is often a compilation of a wide variety of individual components which are all weaved together to make a magical end product known as “great content.” Unfortunately, all of the components you might use to make great content, from fonts to images to music, were invariably created by someone else. Someone who will often want to be paid for their work. Navigating the world of what you can and can’t use for free when creating content can be a bit tricky, but here is a quick and easy guide to fair use and what you can and cannot use without stealing.

Use a respected source and read the terms of use carefully

The one thing you never want to do is just use a downloaded image or material from the internet. There are are a number of sites that specifically provide materials ranging from videos to images to fonts. They are clearly labeled as free sites and have clearly laid out terms of use. Sites like Pixabay offer legitimately free images, with very few restrictions on how the images can and cannot be used. Other sites like Videvo offer free video images. These are sites that genuinely and legitimately offer free content, not just royalty free. You will need a great deal of content to build an online presence, so start with what you can get for free and then pay for what you can’t.

Understand the difference between “free” and “royalty free”

Some images and content will be “royalty free,” but that doesn’t make them free. It means you pay one flat rate for using them rather than every time someone views your content. For instance, if a major brand uses a popular song in a commercial, they may not have to pay the artist up front for using their song, but may pay them each time the commercial is played. That is a royalty. Make sure you understand when purchasing content, whether it is a flat rate fee or whether there will be additional royalties. In addition, there are generally terms around how the material can be used. For instance, if you are using an image on your website, it may have one fee associated with it, whereas if you are printing it onto t-shirts to sell, it might be another fee.

Use a content creation service

There are a number of services that can actually create original content for you. Depending on your needs, services like Textbroker can provide you with blogs and other written content and services like Fiverr can provide a wide range of content such as infographics, images, blogs, articles or other graphic art. When you purchase original content, it is yours, so you don’t have to pay a fee for use or royalties on it, and you don’t have to worry about getting sued for using someone else’s content either.

Share or trade content

While you want to make sure you are creating original content for use on your own site in order to build an online presence, there is nothing wrong with having a guest blogger write a post on your site or occasionally share content from another respected site within your industry. In fact, it is often a good idea to offer a variety of your own original content as well as sharing links to other voices that add credibility to yours or even offer a different perspective on a topic. While you should never simply copy someone else’s work and post it on your own site, linking to their work on their own site is fair game. Keep in mind, however, that you want to offer links to other sites sparingly. Remember, once they click that link, it will take them off your site and onto someone else’s.




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What Are Your Thoughts

We would absolutely love to hear your thoughts on this idea and the article. We will read each and every one of your comments carefully.

  1. What are some other resources you have used that allow fair use?
  2. Have you ever used an outside source for your content, why or why not?
  3. Are you familiar with getting links and proper practice for how a link is supposed to open when it leaves your site?

About the Author

Matthew King is the owner of the Startup Forums, Alkries LLC, and co-owner at TR King Insurance Marketing. Partner at Independent Life Insurance Agent Association, Medicare Training 101, and Final Expense 101. When he's not creating content about running successful businesses here. He's most likely developing processes, diving into SEO, or gaming with his friends and wife.

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