By Robert Craven, Managing Director of The Directors Centre

The internet gives us all unparalleled access to unlimited articles, blogs, workbooks, images and videos.

They are put up to inform, educate and entertain. (See the old BBC strapline).

The upside of this information overload is that we get exposed to an incredible richness and variety. A by-product of the sheer volume of content has been the creation of intermediaries that direct you to the ‘most appropriate’ source, eg google.com or youtube.com. Another by-product is the growth of the curation and blogging industries that feed off the back of other people’s work.

As an author, I have had people copying individual articles and book chapters yet claiming them to be their own. In one instance a university professor copied three book chapters and passed them off as his own work!

A couple of simple observations. First, it is incredibly lazy. Second, it is dishonest. Third, it is stealing. Fourth, it does your reputation no good in the long run.

So, let’s be clear about what is and what is not stealing.

The excellent Fast Company article Content Curators Are The New Superheroes Of The Web, was the stimulus to write this article. Steven Rosenbaum discusses the rise of the curator as the person who can bring specific and relevant content to an audience and save the audience time. More importantly, the curator commands respect for their opinion as well as their hard work. They act like a quality controller ensuring that only certain content will be presented.

For instance, scoop.it curators gather and share online content on a specific subject (see http://www.scoop.it/t/grow-your-business). Likewise, subscribers will pay to see a specific curator’s work. To have access to the efforts of someone who has selected and chosen specific material that will resonate with a specific audience (see www.directorscentre.co.uk).

But, just taking someone else’s material is stealing. So what makes this different?

It is stealing if you take content and use it and you don’t add context or opinion or your own voice.

It is stealing if you don’t provide attribution and a link or a URL taking the reader back to the original source.

It is stealing if you just take a huge lump of content.

It is stealing if the original author states that you cannot reproduce the material without permission and yet you ignore their wishes.

A few years ago, the internet was a bit more of a free-for-all. Nowadays it is a more established medium. It has its own unwritten rules as well as a relatively unspoken etiquette. If the old world internet could be considered as the Attention Economy then the new one is really the Reputation Economy. And if you are seen or are thought to be stealing you will do your reputation no good.

What is great about curating is that it ticks so many of the new-world sexy buzzwords: it is all about nurturing your reputation by being relevant and engaging your audience and being transparent.

Get curating. Be honest about how other people stimulate and motivate you to write. Your readers will respect your honesty and integrity. You will have nothing to hide. No-one really believes that you only create 100% unique and original ideas.

Just respect your sources.

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