7 Legal Steps You Must Take Before Outsourcing Content Creation

7 Legal Steps You Must Take Before Outsourcing Content Creation
Image credit: Joe Gratz | Flickr
Reader Resource

Position yourself for growth in 2017—join us live at the Entrepreneur 360 Conference in Long Beach, Calif. on Nov. 16. Secure Your Seat »

Richard Branson knows something that propels not only his passenger jets but also his businesses to rapid and ever-increasing success -- he embraces letting go and outsourcing. 

And with the rise of the Internet and the need to create consistent content, outsourcing has become incredibly common. In fact, Patricio Robles cites research that shows 79 percent of companies are embracing content marketing, while Statistica recently reported that the global market size of outsourced services in 2014 was $104.6 billion dollars.

Being at the top of your game with content is essential, as the value of great content drives leads and results in more sales. But before you go jumping into the deep end of outsourcing content creation, there are a few things you’ll want to consider, so that you can not only approach it the right way but also protect you and your business from any negative repercussions down the road.

Related: 5 Tasks Entrepreneurs Are Better Off Outsourcing

1. Identify your content needs.

In order to hire great content creators not to mention put together the kind of contract we’ll discuss shortly, you have to first define what types of content you need.

For example, you could include:

  • Weekly blog posts

  • Social media updates

  • Guest blogging

  • Email marketing

  • Pay-per-click ad copywriting

Identifying the specific types of content needed may not appear to be a legal step. However, at the outset, these are incredibly important things to consider, all of which will enable you to outline both your job advertisement and various aspects of your contractual agreement.

2. Assign copyright.

The act of simply paying someone does not automatically turn over copyright of that content to the end user. Unless you specifically list the terms of use in your contract, the content creator maintains ownership of that content. In this case, you only have an implied license, therefore, you’ll need express permission to re-purpose any of that content for other things, such as turning a blog post into an ebook or social-media posts.

It’s also important that you consider protection against indemnification for images or content that may be the property of others. At the end of the day, you will be responsible if the content published on your site or in your materials is found to breach copyright law.

For text-based copy, using a service such as Copyscape is standard practice. But with image attribution, this is particularly difficult, since there’s no good way to test the copyright short of either buying the rights or waiting for an angry digital millennium copyright act notice from the infringed-upon owner.

Be smart and understand copyright upfront so you can avoid any negative consequences.

Related: What I Learned From Being an Accidental Copycat

3. Clearly outline outsourcing requirements.

Be as specific as possible when outlining requirements so that freelancers know your expectations, including benchmarking and measuring success or failure. You may also want to include a Service Level Agreement that clearly outlines performance details and standards. Licensed attorney Ruth Carter provides this list of questions to consider, some of which touch on things I’ll cover later on in this article.

4. Consider legal liabilities in your content.

You may need to take further precautions if the content you’ll be outsourcing is subject to any regulatory requirements. For instance, if you’re publishing medical content or financial advice, you may need to include relevant disclaimers or ensure materials produced meet certain standards to protect yourself legally.

If the content you publish on your website is something you could be held legally liable for, be sure your outsourced creators are able to meet any necessary requirements.

5. Preparing in advance for termination.

Ideally, you’ll find in a freelancer a long-term partnership for your content creation needs. But since turnover is inevitable, it’s far better to protect yourself up front. As Sion King of Rider University says: “Your termination clause is hugely important, as it sets forth the conditions under which the customer may exit the outsourcing relationship.”

The termination clause needs to outline the common reasons that give rights to you and your company to exit the clause along with the rights of the contractor. It’s also wise to include both party’s respective rights upon termination with regards to ongoing privacy and protection here as well.

6. Put it all in a contract.

Now that you’ve covered all your legal bases, document them in a formal written contract that both you and your freelancers will sign. In most cases, it’s a good idea to consult with an actual lawyer to do this. However, you can get started by finding sample contract agreements to work from. William Engelke provides some great tips and points to consider when outlining your outsourcing contract over here.

7. Take out an insurance policy.

Last, but not least -- and let’s keep it short and sweet -- it’s definitely worth investing in an insurance policy when it comes to protecting your legal rights as a content creator and purchaser. At the end of the day, you need to be prepared for any legal ramifications that could occur from the content you publish -- or, at the very least, be fully aware of who’s liable for anything that may occur.

Though the Internet has blurred the rules and lines of outsourcing somewhat, it’s best to stick to guidelines and follow the rules to protect yourself. If you have any doubts, consult a lawyer.

What have you done to manage your outsourcing in terms of legal requirements? Share your thoughts and insights in the comments below.

Related: 3 Key Legal Issues Online Marketers Need to Know About