Can I copy content from other sites for my own website?

Spot the Difference

Spot the Difference, can you spot all 15?

In general, the answer is no.

If you want to copy content from another source you can do so but only in order to highlight that content. That means you can include an extract with attribution and a link back to the original, but you cannot simply copy someone else’s work.

If you do not cite the author, readers will think it is your work. This means you are claiming credit for someone else’s work and is called plagiarism. It’s illegal.

If you publish someone else’s work without the appropriate licence or permission you are committing copyright piracy. It’s also illegal.

Please also note that you may be in breach of copyright if you simply change a few words or alter the order of sentences and paragraphs. You are still stealing someone else’s work.

Write in your own words and if it’s really important to mention the precise words that someone else has used, use quotation marks and either link to the original if it is online or cite the work if it is in print. The internet is built on links – that’s why it’s a network. Linking to sites helps your visitors find other content that might be of interest to them and helps search engines understand what your website and webpage is about. Take advantage of them.

Adding new content to your site is really important, but that content should be both interesting to your audience and unique. You can by all means highlight someone else’s work and provide a link to the original if you think it’s of interest (just like when you share a post on Facebook or retweet something). But, if the content already exists, simply copying it verbatim or bodging it to try and claim credit while avoiding obvious plagiarism makes you look unprofessional, dishonest and lacking in creativity.

There are a couple of exceptions.

Works in the public domain or published under some Creative Commons licences can be used, sometimes without attribution. But you should still consider if you want to do so. The odd quote from the Bible or Moby Dick might well add something to your text, but copying large swathes of writing that already exist on countless other webpages is probably a bad idea.

Duplicate content

Even if an organisation or a client or friend says you can copy their work, it might still be a bad idea to do it. This is because Google will view the content as already published and consider your page worthless because it’s a copy of something that already exists. Think about it: Google wants to return a variety of interesting, relevant responses to search queries. If they indexed new copies of existing content they risk returning a list of results containing essentially the same content.

Take away these points:

  • If you must include text from other sites, always include attribution and/or a link to the original
  • Only use an excerpt
  • People come to your site because you claim to be THE EXPERT in your subject. If you copy content because you can’t find the time or motivation to produce your own, don’t be surprised if your visitors start to question your expertise and integrity and go elsewhere.

If we’re building your website and you have agreed to send us the written content, please please please tell us if you send plagiarised content. If you want our copywriters to use sources you send to produce new content, they are happy to do so – but we will not publish content you’ve copied and pasted from other sites.

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