Copyright and trademark in content management systems

The issue of copyright and trademark is often not considered when designers and authors are working with a content management platform.

The issue of copyright and trademark is often not considered when designers and authors are working with a content management platform.

 

Given that much of content creation is oriented around the construction of instructional or technical documentation, the issue of copyright and trademark is often not considered when designers and authors are working with a content management platform. Yet the ubiquity of existing content and data, as well as changing regulatory guidance and commercial interest in copyright holders has made this an important consideration.

“Even within technical writing, an eye for copyright must be observed.”

Even within technical writing, an eye for rights must be observed. In laying out his guiding principles for an effective content marketing strategy,¬†Columnist Robert Norris writes in The Content Wrangler that organizations should make sure that “copyright is respected, intellectual property is protected and digital record retention is prescribed.”

Specifically, he cautions that an enterprise publishing initiative must make “a commitment to integrity and record-keeping” by archiving source material. Still, this in and of itself can become problematic if the XML content management platform cannot properly handle copyrighted or trademarked material. If this material is treated the same as public domain materials or common knowledge in an automated curation or authorship process, copyright infringement can occur and be disseminated without being flagged ahead of time.

This underscores the importance of creating “fair use,” permission and citation protocols in your content authoring processes, and ensuring that the XML CMS supports these protocols. By flagging copyrighted content and adding hypertext data about the copyright holder, when building a new piece of content, sourcing copyrighted or trademarked content can be made subject to tiered rules, prompting authors to reach out to the copyright holder for approval or automatically adding copyright notices to documents.

Furthermore, the more sophisticated XML content management platforms allow writers to repurpose data contained within copyrighted content and build content from there. The legal guidance on copyright holds that information – unless a trade secret or somehow proprietary – is not protected; copyright protection applies to the way the information is expressed. This makes component-based authoring paradigms like DITA useful for coding content from a particular source and identifying which pieces of information are subject to proprietary protection.

Approaching sourcing from this angle, however, requires a significant amount of capability in the content management platform; hence many CMSs (particularly within education) opt more for linking rather than importing copyrighted content wholesale.  When linking is not an option, though, importing copyrighted content into an XML CMS like Astoria requires proper labeling and role-based access designations to avoid the legal hazards surrounding access to copyrighted content and protection against exposure or misuse by parties that are not authorized to work with the material.

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