Reprint Rights 101: How AEC firms can promote media hits without getting sued
Great news! You or one of your architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) subject matter experts published an article or got quoted in an industry trade magazine, and you want everyone to know — particularly potential clients. So, you post the full text of the article to your company’s website, send it to your email lists and schedule some social media posts that link to it for good measure.
Good marketing, right?
While promoting your media coverage is important (and kudos to you for recognizing that), unfortunately you’ve left yourself open to legal action from the media outlet because you’ve just violated their copyright.
The good news is that there are ways to leverage your media hits while staying on the right side of the law — and in the good books of the media outlets that cover your projects.
When in doubt, link to the original article
To properly leverage media hits while respecting the media outlet’s copyright, write a short summary of the article (or broadcast interview, podcast episode, etc.) and link to the original source.
With the rise of SEO due to the dominance of search engines like Google, so-called referral links from other quality websites are internet gold. So, directly linking from your firm’s website to a media outlet’s article throws a bit of SEO juice their way. It’s a win-win. This is the way we nearly always suggest promoting media coverage for our AEC firm PR clients, especially if it’s a story written entirely by the media outlet.
Here’s an example from our own website, when our Director of Content and PR, Steven Gallo, wrote an article for Construction Executive.
Note the following best practices:
- The link should incorporate keyword-rich text. In other words, your link should not be “click here” or “read more here.” Instead, use the title of the article or some other text that describes the content of the article. That way the firm’s website will get a boost in Google’s eyes as a good source of information on the topic. (Plus a bonus for adding fresh content!)
- The summary should feature concise language that makes use of keywords people will most likely use to search about that topic. The summary doesn’t have to be long. It’s the keywords that matter. (Just make sure to use complete sentences that make grammatical sense — no Black Hat SEO tactics here!)
- Name any project managers, superintendents, engineers or other experts who are mentioned/quoted and link to their website bio or LinkedIn profile.
- On social media, share the link to the summary on your company website, not the link to the original article itself. That way you’re sending visitors to your website first, and then on to the media outlet. It’s all about capturing that traffic.
Promoting bylined articles
Writing short summaries with a link to the original article should be the default option for promoting articles written by a trade publication or other media outlet. However, what should you do when one of your subject matter experts authors a bylined/contributed article? Can you post the full text or a PDF of that article?
Essentially, it comes down to the publishing agreement your author signed when they landed the opportunity to write for the publication. Nearly every media outlet uses standard contracts that spell out who owns the rights to the text. Some publications (like Construction Executive) retain everything, but most will allow authors to make use of the text of their bylined article for marketing purposes if they give credit to the outlet as the original publisher.
Even if a publication spells out its reprint policy, I still like to get an editor’s permission in writing (email). That way there will be no misunderstanding.
Note that most outlets will not allow a company to post an article with the publication’s branding and masthead without written permission — and that typically includes a reprint fee.
Pay for reprints if you want masthead, branding
Sometimes, an official reprint (with a publication’s masthead and branding) is the only way to go. This is particularly the case when including full media clips in RFP responses, marketing collateral, presentations or other materials where appearances matter.
Reprints can be expensive, though, so they are best used sparingly and only for the most impressive media hits. The terms also vary between outlets. Some will allow a one-time use (which can be cheaper) while others are more broad with their license (but that’s likely to cost more). Publishers may offer a lower rate if a company is purchasing reprints for multiple articles, or include a certain number of complimentary reprints with sponsorship or advertising contracts.
Information on how to obtain reprints can be found on the websites of most media outlets, usually in the footer. This is a way to generate revenue for them, so they shouldn’t make it hard to find.
Take a step back, assess and reduce your risk
If all of this sounds complicated and time-consuming, well, it sorta is. But dealing with a copyright takedown notice is not exactly a fun time either. Ignorance is definitely not bliss when it comes to posting media clips properly.
We’re sometimes asked by our AEC clients if they’re really taking a risk posting the full text of articles or branded PDFs to their websites. Our answer is always the same: YES. A company may get away with it, and it may not. But rolling those dice when there are easy ways to avoid the problem makes no sense.
It starts with understanding a media outlet’s copyright policies, reading through publishing agreements and scanning the reprints section of their websites. The information is all there. It just takes a bit of time to look into it. And, most editors or reporters will be happy to tell you what is considered fair marketing use and how to properly post articles to your website.
This also doesn’t mean you have to be paranoid. You don’t need to scrutinize every publishing agreement and demand changes to suit how you will use the content, for example. For one, a publisher won’t alter a contract just for you, or they’d have to do it for everyone. It’s simply about taking reasonable precautions.
It is possible to both leverage media hits and remain compliant with copyright law. Still confused? We are more than happy to help you out and make it all clear. Just drop us a note or post a comment below! Really brave? Share an “I was today years old when I discovered you couldn’t do this” story with us! We won’t tell anyone.