In the past year, protecting copyrighted material has inspired heated debate. In fact, since the inception of sites like Facebook, StumbleUpon, and Pinterest, website owners have begun to question the wisdom of leaving their content open to sharing.
There are Limits to Sharing Content
In an obvious effort to avoid litigation, Pinterest has released a meta tag for site owners to use to protect their content. The tag is simple and easy to insert into existing code. It consists of one line-- <meta name="pinterest" content="nopin">--and prevents Pinterest users from 'pinning' protected content. Wordpress has also followed suit; now users of this popular blogging medium can install a plug-in to prevent users from 'pinning' content, as well.
Sharing Content can be a Double-Edged Sword
The terms and conditions of most social networks require that users obtain permission from site owners, authors, and artists, prior to "sharing" or "pinning" any content. In practice, this rarely happens, but most content owners have been reluctant to take action since most "shared" or "pinned" content drives traffic back to the originating site. In fact, "sharing" and "pinning" by users is a great way to rack up free advertising.
However, as social media sites become the primary draw for Internet users, other problems with content sharing will almost certainly develop. Since social media sites are evolving into major online destinations, chances are users will choose to admire interesting content on site, instead of following links.
Should we be Stingy?
Should website owners prevent social media users from sharing copyrighted content via sites like Pinterest and Facebook? In most cases, website owners denying users the privilege of sharing content are essentially shooting themselves in the foot. Social media is sharing centered. Sharing should be widely encouraged because sharing drives traffic and traffic leads to conversions.
Branding is Essential
While the possibility of traffic eventually dwindling may exist, proper page branding can minimize the risk of this occurring. Content owners can increase the chances that users remember where the content originated from by branding all pages and content.
Protect Paid Content
Sharing content would be inappropriate if content exists in a members-only area, or in a paid download section. Website owners should always put protective measures in place in these situations.
Engaging Users is Worth the Risk
It is clear that digital technology is clearly exceeding the capabilities of existing copyright laws. Most copyright laws are woefully outdated and out of touch with the modern world. The Internet moves much faster than the law. There is a fine line to be measured in this situation. Protecting content is essential, especially for smaller organizations. However, the capabilities of engaging users and fans on much higher levels appears to be worth it.