– Debbie Laskey, MBA
Have you ever spent hours working on a document for work? That’s a silly question because most of us who recognize Microsoft software and SlideShare have spent countless hours working on executive briefs, lengthy project reports, presentation decks, and much, much more.
Normally, we give our work product to our supervisors or give our presentation to our teams and then move on to the next project. But on that rare occasion when someone suggests, “Why don’t you put that document online,” there may be severe ramifications that must be considered.
For those who call the legal profession home, the theme of this post will come as no surprise, but for others who are not lawyers, paralegals, or other legal support staff, it’s hard to know where the line is drawn when it comes to the enforcement of online copyright infringement.
Allow me to share a recent incident. While I receive regular Google Alerts and Talkwalker Alerts via email for my name, every so often, I conduct a Google search featuring my full name. While my name is not as common as John or Jane Smith, odd as it may seem, there are still other Debbie Laskey’s in the world.
However, since I am a guest blogger for 10 blogs and have an extensive digital footprint with profiles on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, YouTube, Flickr, Instagram, SlideShare, About.me, Quora, and others, this recent Google search yielded many pages of content that appropriately related to me. In fact, the first 10 pages of content correctly referred to me and my work.
But then something odd turned up in the Google search: There was an appearance of one of my presentations that I had posted to SlideShare (entitled Social Media Marketing 101), and it appeared on an unknown website. The entire document was mine – nothing had been changed. But my document was on someone else’s site, a site that promoted itself as “the premier online destination to start and grow small businesses.” The site further explained that it housed over 20 million documents. But, there had been no request for featuring my document. There had been no communication whatsoever from the site owner. And there was no link back to any of my websites.
This copyright infringement caused me great concern. I looked around the website for contact information and to see if there were any FAQs that addressed this issue. I found an email address and sent a request to immediately remove my document. A few days later, I received an email with a form to complete. “This form and reporting copyright infringement is to be used for purposes of requesting the removal of copyrighted content only because the person who posted it did not have the right to post the material.” Either the website posted my document or someone else submitted it – but in either case, I wanted it removed.
A few days later, I received another email indicating that my document had been removed from the website. But this entire experience has raised an important issue in our social era. How can we protect our digital assets? How can we protect our profile names, our digital designs and logos, our work product, etc.?
The reality is that, since there is so much information being added to the Internet every second, no one can really monitor every single appearance of our personal brands and corporate brands. Therefore, the best rule of thumb is, don’t place data online that would severely impact your brand or your business. Don’t place confidential data at risk. Don’t place logos or photos that are not approved for widespread use or specifically for media use. Don’t place videos on your site featuring your C-Suite leaders in interviews saying questionable things.
The Internet is a resource for doing business smarter and reaching existing and prospective customers, but don’t let it negatively impact your business by allowing your corporate brand assets to be infringed upon.