The Paradox of Executive Behaviors in Content Sharing and Copyright

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As with most organizational policies, in order for a copyright compliance policy to be effective, it must start and be reinforced consistently from the top. So, it is encouraging that, according to the latest Information Seeking and Consumption Study by Outsell, Inc., a majority of executives (73%) recently surveyed indicated they are aware of their corporate copyright policy compared to middle managers (53%) and individual contributors (39%). But, is awareness enough?

Employees up and down the corporate hierarchy share information with co-workers to stay informed of the latest trends and research, support collaboration, and drive innovation. Executives, however, are the most prolific content sharers, averaging 24.6 shares per week in comparison to their middle managers (15.8/week) and individual contributors (10.5/week). This frequency of sharing by executives is on the rise at nearly double the rate reported in a similar study performed by Outsell, Inc. in 2016 (12.3/week).

Executives also share work-related information with more people on average (12), compared to the 10 people that middle managers share with and the six for individual contributors. The year 2020 prompted additional changes to where and how workers engage and collaborate, amplifying the level of content sharing. Of those who reported working from home, 63% in executive roles said they are sharing more often now, compared to 27% of middle managers and 22% of individual contributors.

Why does this matter? It is significant because it means that executives could be putting their company at the greatest risk of potential copyright infringement if their organization doesn’t have proper permissions in place. With half (50%) of the information shared coming from external sources, executives could be responsible for nearly twice as many (143.6) potential instances of unlicensed sharing as middle managers (74.4) and almost five times that of individual contributors (30).

When we take a deeper look at behaviors around content sharing, we find additional areas for potential concern. While 80% of executives take responsibility for verifying whether they have permission to share third-party information and 77% think about copyright issues before forwarding information,

  • 80% agree that information purchased by their company that is accessible in digital form, through portals or in the library, is permissible to share with others inside their organization.
  • 77% agree that if they obtain free information on the open web or in print, sharing is permitted.
  • 74% agree that in competitive, mission-critical, or time-critical situations, they will forward any and all relevant information that will help their organization be more competitive.

The reality is that rights can vary from publisher to publisher and it is essential for executives and all employees within an organization to verify necessary permissions before sharing. This lack of understanding about the particular do’s and don’ts of copyright indicates the need for better education among executives, and more concerning, less consideration for copyright permissions when information sharing is viewed as critical.

To better address the rising level of content sharing and associated potential risk, we recommend that executive leadership help set the tone for employees at all levels by utilizing the following steps for success:

  1.  First, if you don’t have a copyright policy, CREATE one.
  2. PUBLISH the policy in a central location and make every employee aware of it and its details, including guidelines for using externally published materials.
  3. PROMOTE the policy by sending periodic reminders about how employees can access it and why they should.
  4. EDUCATE all employees on copyright with resources, webinars and courses on www.copyright.com/learn.
  5. SECURE needed permissions, annual licenses and rights management tools for easier compliance and a streamlined content workflow.

For 15 years, Copyright Clearance Center has engaged Outsell, Inc., the voice of the data, information and analytics economy, to conduct research on how professionals across industries think and behave around how information is consumed, used, and shared in the workplace. The 2020 Information Seeking and Consumption Study focused on the speed, volume, and scale at which external content is being shared.

Access the complete 2020 Information Seeking and Consumption Study by Outsell, Inc. for more information sharing across all levels of the organization.

Rachael Shove

Author: Rachael Shove

Rachael Shove is a marketing communications manager responsible for writing and producing compelling content and campaigns to expand CCC’s visibility, build awareness for expanding product and service offerings, and educate audiences in the corporate market. Prior to joining CCC in 2014, Rachael managed marketing strategies including content, PR, social, events, and promotions for major consumer and not-for-profit organizations including Westfield Shopping Centers and Special Olympics, and has an MA, Communications from the University of Connecticut.

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