Can You Use Someone Else’s Web Content?

This morning I met with a prospective client for SEO services. We talked a bit about off-site optimization — linkbuilding, in his case, since his site only has 25 links right now. But we also talked about his plans to make a new website. I suggested that he needed to be sure to have content that did as well as or better than his current site’s content.

He was a little surprised. He planned to move his content from the current site to the new one, of course.

“Does it belong to you?” I asked. His current site isn’t a custom-built site. It’s more of a subscription. The domain doesn’t belong to him, and neither does the content. I could tell by looking. He wasn’t sure I was right on that.

We checked. Once we’d established that he didn’t own the content, he still wasn’t convinced.

“How different can one website be from another in my profession?” he asked. “How many ways are there to say things like that?”

Lots of ways. Infinite ways, in fact, considering how many words we have available to choose from. Nearly every sentence you say is completely new and unique.

I pointed out that lifting the content from someone else’s website was plagiarism. Not only could he be sued, but I could also be sued if I worked on it.

He didn’t mind. He’s a lawyer. “I’m in court all the time anyway,” he assured me expansively.

For the rest of us, this is not a good idea. The floor plan of your website may be much the same as other people doing the same thing you do. But your materials, colors, and decor — the content, in other words — had better be different.






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