Content ProtectionBy John Thyfault, Vice President of Search & Social Strategy, Beasley Direct Marketing

Content Protection

The wonderful thing about content marketing is that you can reach thousands, even millions of people with your message. The downside is that thousands, even millions of people can steal your hard work if you don’t use content protection. You spent the time, effort and money to develop your word, image, video and audio files. You own the work, and it’s worth just a little more effort to protect it from the lazy cyber-shoplifters. They might want to pilfer your intellectual property (IP) for their own purposes.

Content protection isn’t hard. The hard part is remembering to do it. If you are putting your content on a third party site like Google Drive or FaceBook, review your terms of service (TOS). Yes, I know that most people just scroll to the end and click “Agree.” But, if you do that, you may be giving up your copyrights. For example, Google Drive’s TOS says Google can store, reproduce, or recreate any content on their server—even if you stop using the service. By contrast, the TOS for WordPress (operated by Automattic) contains the following verbiage: “By submitting Content to Automattic for inclusion on your Website, you grant Automattic a world-wide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, modify, adapt and publish the Content solely for the purpose of displaying, distributing and promoting your blog.” That’s not so bad, unless you object to having your blog promoted for free.

Protecting Your Photos

Whatever file type you are using, embed the copyright information into the metadata on the file. Image files have a set of metadata that was originally created for photographers. It transmits technical details like f-stops, exposures and who the photographer is. You can use this meta-structure to embed keyword rich descriptions, background information and copyright information. All graphics programs like Photoshop, Paintshop Pro, Photoshop Elements, Pixlrator and Appeture have a way to embed this information, usually called “Properties” or “File Info.” This is helpful if someone just steals your image. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act allows you to go to any of the third-party publishers and prove the image belongs to you via this embedded data. They will take your pirated material off their servers and notify the thief. This is usually enough to stop most individuals in their tracks (at least when it comes to your material). People steal content because they are lazy and fighting it becomes more effort than it’s worth.

Keep the highest resolution images behind your firewall. Publically accessible images should be the lowest resolution you can use that still looks good. Having the highest resolution image also helps to establish your ownership.

Also, any image that you have invested resources in creating should be watermarked at higher resolutions.

Protecting Your Audio and Video Files

Audio files also have a way to embed copyright and other information. The metadata are based on recording industry terms like artist, title, length, tracks, etc. Audio files do have areas where you can put copyright info. Further, you can also often put a synopsis of what you have covered in detail. This is especially helpful if you have a class lecture or something of a similar nature. Most audio editors will offer this ability.

Content protection for videos is a little trickier, depending on how the video was created. The metadata is there, but you can lose metadata when the video is converted. (This can also happen with Flash files.) QuickTime, Windows Media Player and audio editors will give access to this core data that is part of the video file and allow you to claim ownership. If you have converted from one file format to another you may have to re-embed your copyright information prior to posting.

Content Protection for Your Documents

If you are making PDFs available for download, copyright information, author and other data are easily inserted in “Properties” and the same is true for Word. When making these files available, be sure to set them as “Read Only” files to prevent others from using your material and trying to hide their theft by changing the files.

On the non-technical side, content protection of your material is like a PR campaign, and probably something you should be doing in any case. As soon as you post something, announce it on Twitter, LinkedIn, and all other social media sites that you use. This early announcement allows you to claim ownership. If you have an identifiable author, announce the availability of the material on the author’s Google+ page if they have one. This stakes a solid claim for intellectual ownership.

Finally, if someone has actually stolen your files, send cease-and-desist letters and get Google, (or whomever) to send the thief take-down notices. But the core of IP protection is actually getting the copyright information embedded on your webpage and in the file itself. If you put up a video, for example, show a copyright notice on your website somewhere. This gives you a defensible position to prove ownership of your intellectual property.

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About the Author

John Thyfault PhotoThis post was authored by John Thyfault, Vice President of Search & Social Strategy, of Beasley Direct Marketing. Contact John at

John has more than 18 years of marketing, sales and product development experience, and he brings a proven track record of successful campaign, program and product development expertise. His knowledge of search engine optimization and marketing, combined with an in-depth understanding of customer identification, market analysis and segmentation, allows him to deliver high returns on our client’s marketing investment for both business-to-consumer and business-to-business markets.

Prior to working with Beasley Direct, John was Senior Client Services Project Director at, a first wave baby boomer lifestyle and community website. At ThirdAge he successfully led major client sponsorships for Fortune 100 companies in healthcare (Tylenol), financial services (American Century), technology (Intel & IBM) and consumer products areas (Revlon & Viactive). He was responsible for strategic and tactical goal setting, project management, new product creation and web site production. John previously worked in Channel Marketing and National Account Sales for IDG Books Worldwide, the publishers of the immensely popular “…For Dummies” book series. Additionally, he managed the wholesale distributor sales channel for Tor/Forge Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press.

John is active in local marketing associations, including the Direct Marketing Association, the Business Marketing Association and is currently serving on the board of directors for the Silicon Valley American Marketing Association.

John has taught search engine marketing fundamentals extensively. He has led workshops for the Silicon Valley American Marketing Association, Northern California Direct Marketing Association ( and the Business Marketing Association. He also teaches Search Engine Marketing at (UCSC Extension in Silicon Valley).