Online Community Etiquette: Give Credit for Content Ideas

Have you ever used Google Images to find a picture to illustrate a blog post or community newsletter for your online community? Before downloading the picture, did you ask the photographer for permission, and after receiving permission, did you give him or her credit? You’d be surprised how many people think “online” means “help yourself.”

Ditto goes for any content online, whether it’s a blog post, news article, or forum entry. When you’re looking for content from online sources, it’s illegal to cut and paste someone else’s stuff and use it on your own website. It’s even worse to let everyone assume that you’re the source of the aforementioned content.

If you don’t have permission, don’t use it. Passing someone else’s content off as your own is illegal and unethical.

What about borrowing other types of ideas? The idea may not be copyrighted, and the borrowing may not even be obvious, but if you want to use someone else’s idea for something you want to do, give a shout out to the person who gave you the inspiration in the first place.

Suppose that another community had a scavenger hunt. Members had to find various items posted throughout the content, and everyone who found an item was entered into a drawing. Maybe you have a content-heavy community, and you’d like to do the same thing. It’s not unethical to do something similar, but it’s good juju and unwritten etiquette to give props to the place where you saw the idea.

You don’t have to make a billboard or shout from the rooftops, but the first time you announce or discuss your contest, you can say something like “We saw a similar type of contest over at Joe’s Community and thought it might appeal to you as well.” Link to Joe to let him know you’re giving him the credit, too.

If the idea was unique, and it’s very apparent that you’re borrowing, contact the person who dreamed up the idea and mention that you’d like to try something similar. Usually, you’ll get that person’s blessing, but it’s a nice thing to do to ask. The other person may even help you promote your contest.

If you blatantly rip off someone else’s idea, someone will recognize it and call you out on the social networks. Give credit where it’s due and don’t use anyone else’s content without permission.

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