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Reducing the Risks of User-Generated Content

Understanding user-generated content and how it can both help and hurt you is a great asset to your business. Social media is a method of connecting with people, meaning providing your own user-generated content to communicate interest, link content and even share business ideas. This article explains the types of risks involved as well as how to protect yourself against negative content. This is important for every successful business online. – WST

By: Jeremy Gislason

User-generated content (or “Participatory Media” as some call it) can be a great way to boost the value of your website, and the traffic that’s driven to it. Many website owners have already found that developing online communities greatly increases their financial bottom lines. Sometimes, as has been the case with YouTube, user-generated content can even be a great business model in itself.

But user-generated content can also be a great source of risk and exposure. Again, there’s probably no better example of this than YouTube. YouTube was sued by the Viacom studio in 2007 for $1 billion in damages, for allegedly distributing Viacom’s copyrighted materials without permission.

If you understand the risks associated with user-generated content, you can take steps to reduce your exposure and protect your online assets, while at the same time increasing the value of your website.

What is User-Generated Content?

User-generated content is a broad term that includes any material that a website user posts on the website for others to see. This can include not only blog comments, but also pictures, videos, articles, or anything else that a user might post in a forum or bulletin board section of your website, or as part of their own personal profile on the website.

What are the Risks with User-Generated Content, and How Can I Address Them?

There are a number of legal issues that you will need to become familiar with if you permit or promote user-generated content on your website.

a. Intellectual property infringement. There are two primary types of intellectual property infringement issues that you should be aware of. The first is copyright infringement. Key elements of liability include knowledge of the infringing activity, inducing or contributing the improper conduct, and attaining a direct financial benefit in the infringing activity when you have the ability to supervise the direct infringer.

Copyright holders generally try to enforce their rights by means of “takedown notices” that are sent in accordance with the requirements a particular Federal law (the Digital Millennium Copyright Act). You’ll have to decide what position to take once you receive takedown notices. Do you evaluate each and respond notice as you feel appropriate? Or do you simply honor all takedown notices immediately? It’s a balance between avoiding legal risk of a lawsuit by those who claim to hold a copyright to the material that someone else posted, versus possibly alienating your users if you aren’t giving any consideration to their “fair use” rights in that content.

Trademark law prevents the use of trademarks of others in a manner that creates a likelihood of confusion about the source of goods or services or in a manner that dilutes the value of the trademark. User-generated content sometimes falls afoul of trademark law.

b. Defamation. You should also be aware that there is potential liability for allowing users to post defamatory statements about others on your website. There is a Federal law (The Communications Decency Act) which can provide some protection against defamation claims based on what your users do on your website, but the scope of the protection is still somewhat uncertain, so you should not ignore the possibility of claims against you based on user generated content.

c. Obscenity and Child Pornography. The Federal laws that provide protections to website owners generally exclude protections for obscene materials that appear on such websites, even if the materials are posted by users themselves.

How Can I Reduce My Risks?

One common technique for a website operator to reduce their risks of legal liability for user generated content is to not actively monitor the user activities on the website. While this may seem counter-intuitive, the relevant Federal laws provide a greater degree of protection (through a so-called “safe harbor”) for passive web services that do not actively manage or supervise user content.

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The Web Success Team’s Solopreneur Package includes a 5-page custom direct response website fully branded and optimized for Search Engines with 6-months of online marketing, social networking, blogging, article marketing and much more. Lock in your special pricing now before the rate goes up! Contact the Web Success Team at 818-222-5643 or email bob@websuccessteam.com. To your web success!

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Writing Content for Small Businesses Online

Search taxonomy is becoming very important in search engine optimization.  Using a recent study, Bill goes into detail on the types of searches that are done and how to implement them in your content.  Knowing how users find your business and what they are looking for can help with ad and SEO campaigns.  Marketing is a key factor for any online business.   If you are starting out or need to revamp your website check out our new Solopreneur Package. –  WST

By: Bill Slawski

There are creative ways that a small business may use to help visitors find them online, engage those visitors and customers, and keep them coming back. The Small Business Administration has a article that describes some ways that many businesses can use to promote their business in 15 Foolproof Ideas for Promoting Your Company. The article offers ideas like holding contests, or publishing a newsletter, offering demonstrations and seminars and more. Many of those ideas can work well in an online setting.

When you create content for an ecommerce site, it also can help to think about more than just how you may present the products or goods that you offer on your pages. Many ecommerce sites on the web simply break products own into categories, and provide very little beyond a listing of those products and brief descriptions about them.

Understanding how people may search for what you have to offer can be really important, especially if you hope to have visitors find you through search engines. It can be a key to finding creative ways to bring people to your site who might be interested in what you have to offer.

Different Intents Behind Searches

It can be helpful to understand that when people search, they often have different purposes in mind. When someone from one of the major search engines writes about these different purposes, they often refer to them as “user intent.”

Some people may want to learn about a topic, or to buy something, or to learn how to do something for free. Since many visitors may arrive at a web site through a search engine, it helps to know about different types of queries that a searcher may use to find your site. So, an important way of thinking about queries is to consider the intent behind them.

A convenient way of breaking down queries into different types is described in a paper written by search engineer Andrei Broder, who classifies the intent behind queries down into navigational, transactional, and informational, in the paper A taxonomy of web search (pdf)

Informational Queries – The web is much more than just a commercial space, filled with marketing and commerce. It’s a medium where people can communicate with each other, share ideas, learn about a world of topics, find and offer advice, and explore other countries and cultures and communities. Many people who do go online with some kind of commercial intent do so to save money rather than spend it, often looking for ways to do things themselves. People who may want to buy something may be looking for information that can help them make an informed decision before they decide to make a purchase.

Navigational Queries
– A navigational query is one in which a searcher is attempting to find a specific page or site that they have visited before, or have assumed likely exists on the Web. For example, if I want to visit the pages of the American Psychological Association, I might type [apa] into a search box, hoping that the top search result might be the home page for the organization. The major commercial search engines have even been trying to help people who perform navigation type queries by attempting to associate certain query terms with sites that may be ideal destinations for those queries. The search engines may even offer additional links under a listing for those sites, referred to as site links or quicklinks, which may help lead searchers to pages within a site that they may be interested in ending up at on those sites.

Transactional Queries – Transactional queries are ones in which a searcher may not have a specific site in mind, but they want to perform or complete some kind of task online, such as accessing and searching a database about a topic, being entertained interactively, downloading a video, making a purchase, or interacting with the site or others in some way. If you offer goods or services to consumers or to other businesses, you’ll want to be found by the people who are looking for what you have to offer and want to interact with you.

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The Web Success TeanSPECIAL: Solopreneur Package – Jump Start Your Business
The Web Success Team’s Solopreneur Package includes a 5-page custom direct response website fully branded and optimized for Search Engines with 6-months of online marketing, social networking, blogging, article marketing and much more. Lock in your special pricing now before the rate goes up! Contact the Web Success Team at 818-222-5643 or email bob@websuccessteam.com. To your web success!

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