Professional Ethics, and Saving Customers from Themselves

By Carole Bennett Professional Ethics, and Saving Customers from Themselves

It’s something every service provider is faced with at some time, especially so in the web design/development field. With sites like Facebook and Pinterest making it so easy to share images and content, it’s hard for some customers to understand the legal ramifications of doing the same thing for branding and content on their own sites.

Why “Borrowing” Content Is a Bad Thing

1. Copyright Infringement

Under United States law, the owner of a copyrighted work can be awarded damages between $750 and $30,000 per infringement. If it is shown that the infringement is intentional, the law allows damages as high as $150,000 per infringement. Each instance (such as an image) identified as an infringement on your website can be considered a separate count. Add to this the cost of hiring an attorney to represent your company, and the negative publicity against your business, and you can see where it’s just a much better idea to buy content, or create your own original work.

2. Negative Search Engine Results

Search engines have become increasingly sophisticated in terms of identifying copied content, whether text-based or image-based (fun trick; pull up Google Images, and drag an image from your desktop onto the page;  if it’s an image you’ve downloaded, chances are that Google will find multiple instances of that image, as well as the original source).

Search engine algorithms are tuned to give greater emphasis to fresh, original content; sites that appear to consist of copied content will score much lower in search engine results, defeating the purpose of adding content to your site.

Standing Your Ground for the Greater Good

Even the best of customers will sometimes ask you as a service provider to do something that infringes upon good business practices, or at worst, something that will open them (and you) up to legal liability. It’s your job as an experienced professional to help your client understand the ramifications of their request, and provide alternatives that meet the needs of the business, while still ensuring proper boundaries are maintained.

If your customer still pushes back, even after all the legal and business liabilities are explained, you may find yourself with a tough decision to make. It is at this point that you’ll have to realize that you can’t save a customer that won’t listen, and all that you can do is protect your own livelihood.

Carole Bennett is the founder and primary voice of IndigoTea. As a professional IT consultant, Carole has provided solutions for companies as diverse as Verizon, Frito-Lay, Capital One Auto Finance, and Zales Jewelers, parlaying a unique talent for acting as a translator between the worlds of business challenges and technology solutions. After nearly two decades of experience in providing business and technology solutions in the corporate space, Carole chose to dedicate her wealth of experience towards creating outstanding results for her small business clientele. She considers her skills gained from simultaneously managing a fire performance troupe, raising a family, and working as a full-time IT consultant excellent preparation for her current career incarnation as the driving force behind IndigoTea Small Business Solutions. “Fire-breathing redhead on a mission” is not just a metaphorical description!

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