From research to medical communications to legal to marketing, sharing content with colleagues across job roles and departments is critical. Employees in all job roles are sharing with more and more people. However, an intriguing insight from Outsell Inc.’s Information Seeking and Consumption Study, commissioned by CCC, is that executives share the most content and have the highest likelihood of copyright infringement. 

Is awareness enough? 

In research-driven organizations, sharing content and information between colleagues across job roles is crucial for staying up to date on trends, supporting collaboration, and driving innovation. The number of people executives share material with has risen nearly 72%, a level of sharing significantly higher than colleagues in middle management and individual contributor roles. According to the 2023 Information Seeking and Consumption Study, executives report the highest level of copyright awareness (91%) but are most likely to share in ways not allowed by their companies’ own policies. Ninety-two percent of executives report considering copyright before forwarding information and 91% acknowledge awareness of “serious risks of copyright infringement” when they do. Yet, 90% of executives will share any and all relevant information to help their organization in competitive, mission-critical, or time-critical situations. 

How has the Evolving Workplace Affected Executive Content Sharing Behavior? 

Remote and hybrid work environments have changed executive information sharing activities. Seventy-nine percent of executives surveyed stated that they share more often than in the past, and 50% stated that they share with more people. These numbers are higher than the average survey results across all roles, which report that 55% of all employees are sharing more often and 42% are sharing with more people.  

The ability to work on digital platforms is crucial to remote and hybrid environments. The 2023 overall study results show that 33% of employees prefer collaboration tools to share information and close to 41% prefer email. Among executives, 41.3% prefer collaboration tools and close to 39% prefer email. Since the last survey in 2020, executive-level preference for collaboration tools has risen 82%. Downloading content through any tool makes a new copy of that content – and copying often requires permission. With the rise in the use of collaboration tools, more people may be downloading content from those tools, creating new potential instances of unlicensed sharing. 

Why does this matter? 

Executives are the leaders of their organizations. It’s critical that they learn and understand their organization’s copyright policies and that they consistently adhere to them as well. Executives report that they depend on an average of 9.4 critical-to-job print or digital publications, significantly higher than middle managers (7.1) and individual contributors (4.5). Of the publications accessed, executives report using 12 publications per week compared with middle managers (9) and individual contributors (5). With more than half (54%) of the information shared coming from external sources, executives could be responsible for more than double (125.9) the potential instances of unlicensed sharing as middle managers (46.6) and more than seven times that of individual contributors (17.5). 

What can executives do? 

Executives should lead by example. They should ensure their organization has a solid copyright policy in place and that they fully understand and align their behaviors with those policies. They should also take steps to support employee education and communication about copyright, and deploy appropriate compliance solutions to support a streamlined content workflow. Those solutions should make it easier for executives and all employees within the organization to secure needed permissions through proper licensing and copyright-compliant content management software. 

Download the Information Seeking and Consumption Study Report 

Get more details about executive content sharing habits and many other insights into how people across job levels think and behave in the context of copyrighted content consumption, use, and sharing by accessing the complete 2023 Information Seeking and Consumption Report 


Author: Julie Arrison-Bishop

Julie Arrison-Bishop is a marketing content manager responsible for producing content and campaigns to expand visibility, build awareness for expanding product and service offerings, and educate audiences in the corporate market for CCC and RightsDirect. Prior to joining CCC, Julie held a variety of leadership roles in the museum field, including marketing and community engagement. Julie holds an MA in History and several graduate-level certificates from Northeastern University.
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