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Duplicate content

Content Is King – But Should You Let Others Use Yours?

February 2, 2015

Content is important if you want to be found online. That’s well known. What is less understood is what the considerations are if someone asks to feature your content on their site.

With the proliferation of news aggregators, chances are you will at some stage be approached to syndicate your content. So, should you give permission?

Duplicate content

Google and other search engines can be confused when duplicates of the same content appear online. If so, will they penalise your site and will you still get the benefit from posting the original content on our own site?

According to SEOMoz if you syndicate content, the site that posts a copy of your content should put a link back to your site. In this way the search engines know whom to credit with the original content and there will be no duplicate content penalties.

Search Engine Land offers useful advice about how to syndicate and how many posts to permit others to post. It points out that you want your site to provide authority for the topic in question. So it would be a waste to let someone else take all your content. You want to leave people with reason to visit your own site.

Content scrapers

But what if someone doesn’t ask for permission and simply scrapes your content without linking back to you?

This is going to confuse the search engines as they won’t know who to credit with the original material. However, the search engines may have ways of working out if it’s a dodgy site with a low page rank that is copying your content. If so, presumably they will penalise the scraping site and credit yours with the material.

If the search engines are unable to identify which of two sites featuring the same content to credit, then according to Search Engine Land there may still be benefits for your site.

Google recognises the problem of a scraping site getting credit over the originator of the content as this article amusingly reveals. Matt Cutts of Google tweeted as follows.

Someone then pointed out how Google itself was a prime example, as it was scraping Wikipedia for a definition of scraping and ranking itself above Wikipedia.


To what extent does the law of copyright come to your help if others are scraping your site?

You can use the fact that your copyright has been infringed by the illicit copying to have the site taken down.

If copying of your content happens a lot you might want to ask your brand protection team to carry out spot checks and approach offending sites to take down your content on a regular basis.

Is there copyright infringement if your content is featured on the aggregator’s site in iframes? For example, if by adding code to a video another site has embedded your content on theirs. Technically, such a site is linking to your site’s content, and retrieving it for viewing on their site.

The Meltwater case as discussed in my earlier blog posts Linking And Copyright Following Meltwater V. Newspaper Licensing Agency, and Managing Risks Of Copyright Infringement When Linking Post Meltwater V. Newspaper Licensing Agency.raised doubts as to the legality of such a widespread practice as linking to other websites and embedding video (effectively sticking code on a site to point to another server). 

However, one of the major copyright cases of 2014, Svensson decided that did not constitute copyright infringement  as this article shows. The Svensson decision clarifies the position.

So now it is clear that if you make a third party’s video or other freely available copyright content available through an iframe you do not infringe copyright. That is because technically you are not uploading it. The source material, such as the video, is stored on a different website. So the content, though displayed on your site for viewing, is not a copy.


Although it is now settled law that linking does not infringe copyright, there are still questions remaining following the decision in Svensson. For example, linking to content that circumvents a paywall would not be permissible. And there may be exceptions where there is a new public to whom the copyright content is being shown.

There are unanswered questions, such as what effect it would have if a site’s terms of use disallowed linking to its content. Would linking to such a site mean that a new public was thereby seeing it, so that the Svensson conditions were no longer satisfied?

Google news

Interestingly following the Svensson decision the Spanish Government passed a copyright law forcing aggregators to pay news publishers for linking to their stories.  The Guardian reports that in response, Google withdrew its news service from Spain.

Consequently, Google no longer offer Google News in Spain.


There’s no doubt that allowing news aggregators to use your content is a great way to reach a wider audience. However, it is important to make sure that you limit the amount of content you syndicate.

Also, you need to make sure that where your content is used there is a link back to your site so that Google and other search engines know it is your content originally. For this reason, keep an eye out for sites scraping your content for their own purposes.

.If you have any queries concerning online content, please contact us at [email protected].