In working with online entrepreneurs, I am often asked about copyright and content generation. In an earlier post, I went over what copyright law is, and how it can best be used to your advantage. Another piece of that, however, is how to be sure you are not using someone else’s work!
With all of the available content online these days, chances are you will not be the first (or last!) to write about any specific topic you choose. While I will spare you the intricacies of copyright law, suffice it to say that as long as you are generating original content, you will likely not encounter copyright infringement.
As I outlined in my prior article on copyright law, in general, ideas are not copyrightable. This is why there can be an infinite amount of articles on, let’s say, the benefits of coconut oil. Writing about this topic is an idea – one that is not protectable by any one person. This is why 20 people can write original articles on this idea and likely not have an issue with copyright infringement: each article is its own original content stemming from the same idea.
In order to establish a claim for copyright infringement, one must prove access to the work, as well as “substantial similarity” between the two works. For example, if a writer named Bob wanted to claim writer Joe stole his content, Bob would have to show that Joe had access to the article Bob wrote, and that Joe’s article was substantially similar to Bob’s. However, if Joe can show he independently created his article and that it came from his own ideas, Joe is likely in pretty good shape, even if Joe and Bob wrote about the exact same thing.
In the online world, typically certain websites or servers will monitor blog posts for plagiarism and/or possible copyright infringement. However, in order to be flagged, chances are the second article would have to be nearly an exact copy of the first – as if someone “copy/pasted” the first article into their blog. (This is why one writer cannot have their blog posted on multiple websites.)
Overall, if you are writing original content, it is very unlikely you will have to worry about being flagged for copyright infringement. You are allowed to create an original work that stems from the same idea as another writer, as long as the writing is not substantially similar and you independently created the article.