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You’re Probably Stealing Web Content

Anyone Can Do That. Not Everyone Can Be Creative. Are You Ready for the Challenge?

What generates page views on radio station Web sites targeted at males?

Photos! Not just any photos, of course. I’m sure you’ll be shocked (yeah, right) to learn that the photos to which I’m referring are of women. More specifically, these photos are of beautiful women wearing big smiles and little clothing.

Now here is something that may surprise you: Too often, these photos are not the property of the radio station posting them. They are copied from major brand-name sites run by famous magazines. The photos are placed by the radio station into thumbnail galleries so that the user will click, and click, and click, maximizing page views for the station site.

Sometimes the Web person who posted these photos will give credit to the originating magazine site. When I once asked a Webmaster why he credited the magazine holding the copyright, he said he had been told by a program director that as long as he credited the originator, the station could use any photo they wanted.

I even heard a radio station once say on the air that listeners should go to its site to see all the hot photos from the sports magazine’s brand-new swimsuit edition.

Hello, McFly … anyone home?

Get the OK

Sorry to bring you bad news. Just because you give someone credit doesn’t mean you may take their work and republish it.

This is true for photos, text articles, video, audio, etc. You need written permission from whoever holds the rights in order to post anything you don’t own.

© Frame This is as true for magazine Web sites as it is for syndicators like AP and Getty Images, who will gladly sell you a license to publish.

What about game footage from your local NFL, NBA, MLB, MLS or NHL team? After all, your local team had an amazing score last night … doesn’t that protect you because you’re a radio station delivering local news on the Internet?

Nope. You need permission to post professional and collegiate product; and the leagues are very protective of their content and marks.

Here’s another defense of theft that I’ve heard from the trenches: “Bloggers do it and they get away with it.”

This is a bit like telling a cop who catches you shoplifting that everyone does it. Also, a lot of bloggers have limited liability because they’re running their mouths out of their mom’s basement and they don’t even try to make money from their Web sites. This doesn’t justify their theft either; but it does make them less of a target for a fat lawsuit than it would, say, a major radio group with millions of dollars in local annual revenue.


What constitutes permission to republish anything on your Web site? A written statement from the company or person who holds the rights.

Are there exceptions to posting content you haven’t created? Yes.

Some Web sites are using video players that can be embedded on the site. They make the players this way intentionally so that everyone can take their player and embed it on a page, which brings them more views of that specific video. Some refer to these as “viral” players, because they spread across the web. They may actually serve their own pre-roll commercials through their player, or place an advertising message in the content being streamed from the player.

An example of this embeddable player is being used by YouTube. Anyone can embed that player, as long as they follow YouTube’s terms of service.

However, this does not grant anyone license to record that content from an embeddable player — then put that now-recorded content in another player.

So now that your boss has torn this article out of Radio World and showed it you, what are you as a PD or Webmaster supposed to do?

Simple: Take down all photos, videos, audio and anything else you have “borrowed” from another site or publication without permission.

Next, do what you were hired to do: Be creative.

Hire a photographer. Don’t have the budget? Get an intern to be a photographer. Hire a video person. No budget? Buy one of those new HD video cameras for $175 and give it to a DJ on staff. Need a writer? Do a deal with a local newspaper, or university journalism class.

Too often we forget that we work in a really fun business. When we start asking people to join us, we are reminded just how cool it is to be creative.

Anyone can steal. Not everyone can be creative. Are you ready for the challenge?

The author is president of Lapidus Media. E-mail him at[email protected].