Copyright infringement is a serious problem for WordPress creatives. We’ll look at how users can make infringement more difficult and whether they should.
For those of us who make a living producing content for the web, copyright is often at the forefront of the issues that generate the most controversy. The freedom with which information can be propagated through the network is fundamental to the functioning of the online information economy, but no one likes to see the content that they’ve worked hard to create disproportionately benefiting free-riders.
Ultimately, there’s very little creators like writers, photographers, and videographers can do to prevent their copyright being infringed by dedicated and technically astute copiers. If content is out there, it can be taken and republished without permission. However, we can make it so that infringers have to jump through a few hoops and that’s often enough to discourage the casual sharer.
We need to take some care with how much we discourage the sharing of our content though. Content curation and sharing on social media are major channels through which creatives generate awareness of their work. Being too restrictive can backfire. No one is happy to see their content misused, but some infringement may need to be accepted as the price paid for exposure.
For example, a photographer may be displeased by the idea of their work appearing for free all over Pinterest and Tumblr, but, provided they are properly attributed, that dissemination can be a huge source of traffic back to their own site. Whether proper attribution occurs is another issue entirely and has more to do with proper education of Internet users than enforcement, most people will attribute properly if they are aware of the issues and those who happily ignore the etiquette of attribution aren’t likely to be source of income for creatives.
That said, there are several methods of making copyright infringement more difficult if content owners are so minded.
WP-CopyProtect prevents the copying of content from WordPress sites in two ways. Firstly, it prevents the selection of text. Most casual copiers will just copy and paste from the page. If they can’t select text it’s difficult for them to copy it. Secondly, the plugin disables the right click menu, which is where the copy command and the “save image” command usually live. These options can be controlled separately.
Neither of these techniques is foolproof; both can be easily overridden by anyone with a modicum of technical knowledge and this sort of passive aggressive enforcement runs the risk of irritating site visitors by disabling browser features.
Tynt is a service that appends URLs and a tracking code to the end of copied text, so that when it’s pasted into another document the attribution is automatically attached. The benefit of this is that you don’t have to disable copy and paste features, you make it easier for users to properly attribute, and the generated links can have positive effect on SEO; all of which assumes that the copier doesn’t simply delete the attribution link.
This plugin is a very easy way to add configurable watermarks to images. It allows you to choose the text, font, color, and size of your watermarks. Watermarks are added dynamically, and they doesn’t affect the original image.
WordPress users who implement these and other techniques for protecting their content are walking a fine line. As with much copy protection, it’s the user’s experience that suffers, and so the effort might end up doing more harm than good. Additionally, none of these techniques are difficult to circumvent for anyone who can read a page of HTML. Each creative has to balance the pros and cons and decide for themselves.
Graeme works as an inbound marketer for Nexcess, a leading provider of Magento and WordPress hosting. Follow Nexcess on Twitter at @nexcess, Like them on Facebook and check out their tech/hosting blog, http://blog.nexcess.net/.
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