Whew! Yesterday was quite a discussion day, wasn’t it? I want to thank everyone for chiming in, pro and con, over the content mill debate. I want to thank Deb Ng once again for voicing her side of things. Much appreciated, Deb.
In Tuesday’s post, some disturbing commentary came up and I’m loathe to let it pass without some serious discussion. One of the posters brought up this hypothetical idea of finding corporate clients, working for them, and then reselling that content to content mills. He mentioned press releases and articles as potential resell opportunities. It doesn’t matter – it’s wrong on both counts.
Here’s the thing – when you write for a client, you write their copy in exchange for a fee. When you hand it over, it’s theirs. Not yours. I’ll repeat that in case you missed it – that copy is not yours. I don’t care how entrepreneurial you are or how resourceful you think it is; you cannot resell a product that isn’t yours to begin with. Just because you generated it doesn’t mean you own it. You don’t. Have I mentioned yet that you can’t sell it because it’s not yours?
I’m stressing this because to do otherwise is unethical at best. Legally, you’re looking at breach of contract, copyright infringement, theft of intellectual property, theft of trade secrets, damage to brand and reputation, damage to the ability to compete, etc. And hell yes, you’re going to be fired for it, as well you should be, in my opinion.
Circulating someone else’s press release without their permission? That’s just as bad. While it may seem logical that companies want all the added attention, it’s not your choice to decide where that release is going to be seen. It’s the company’s choice. Imagine this – you hire someone to write a press release for your own company. You select the news organizations where you’re going to send the release. Maybe it’s because your product is new on the market and you want to get it into New York Times et al before your competition can trump you.
But your Google Alert shows your press release out there on a content mill site. What? How can that be? Because your writer took it upon himself to circulate your release on the Internet. Worse, he got money for it, money above what you’d paid him so that you retained all rights to your release. So now, are you happy for the “added exposure” or are you pissed because someone’s making money off your proprietary information and tipping off your competitors, thus damaging your competitive edge and weakening your brand? Suppose you worked for Apple and it’s their release on their newest product? Think you’re going to be seen as having tons of initiative? I think it’s more likely you’ll be seen as a thief.
If this is a gray area for you still, don’t take on any clients. Please. Until you understand that the money you collect for those projects transfers the project ownership to the client, you’re opening yourself up to all sorts of legal action, and you’re damaging your client’s business.
Have any of you seen this in practice?