Caught Stealing, Shame ON YOU!

Last Update: Jun 13, 2017


Is private label content sharper than a double-edged sword?

It certainly can be.

If you don’t use caution, you can be deeply impaled or at least lacerated and severely injured by its serrated edges. Better yet, you are probably all the wiser to avoid it.

Didn’t your parents ever tell you not to play with fire and sharp shiny metal objects?

I had no intention to write this post, but based on several comments to a question I recently posted regarding how to build your email list, I was presented with content that I could no longer ignore.

There is a trend that I find very disturbing that has reared its ugly head. It's all about using other people's free content, and in some cases modifying this content, to include as a free giveaway in order to create an incentive for visitors to sign up to their email lists and other opt-ins on their websites.

Am I missing something here? Please tell me. Has anyone ever heard of copyright infringement? Or outright plagiarism?

I know there have been posts written here about plagiarism recently in a general context, but this act of using someone else's content such as an e-book and then modifying it even with ostensible explicit permission of a license smells fishy and seems to be blatant plagiarism and outright stealing in its most shameless form to me.

Shame on you, if you are engaging in this highly questionable practice!

Navigating Dark Murky Waters

So why my issue with Private Label Rights?

Evidently, one day someone who noticed there were lots of lazy content writers and marketers out there came up with the money-making idea to create a license to sell content so buyers could re-brand the content under their own name, modify it, and resell it to make money

Wikipedia cites the following about Private Label content:

“While licenses differ with each author and seller, the basic premise is that the license permits buyers to re-brand the content under their own name and brand (excluding copyright). In general practice this means that the product can be modified, sold, resold or repurposed in many different formats.” (Source: Wikipedia)

Did you notice there is one caveat here, excluding copyright?

Ah, ladies and gents this is where we have entered the dark murky waters of privacy label rights’ ambiguous laws concerning the rights of intellectual property owners. .

But first I would like to discuss key differences and distinctions between privacy label rights and its close cousin, a piece of intellectual property called a Work for Hire.

Work for Hire

A Work for Hire is an agreement between a work’s creator of original content and their employer produced on behalf i.e., a special outsourcing entity such as a company, publishing house, or a magazine etc., where the original work is specially ordered or commissioned.

A simple example of a Work for hire is where a work created by an employee is part of their job.

In a Work for Hire, the employer i.e., the outsourcing entity is assigned and retains ownership of the copyrighted work, not the creator who is the employee or is hired as an independent contractor.

Here is an example of a typical "Work for Hire":

1) The outsourcing entity first approaches or hires the creator (i.e. Fiverr) to create an original work, with the preexisting agreement that the outsourcing entity would be attributed copyright of the work.

2) The creator creates the work as a "deliverable" in care of the outsourcing entity, and thus delivers the work to the outsourcing entity upon completion.

3) Rightfully, after the work is created the outsourcing entity is given credit for the copyright.

There must be a written agreement between the parties specifying that the original work commissioned for is a work made for hire by use of the phrase "work for hire" or "work made for hire.”

In a Work for Hire, it’s important to understand the following chronology:

An employer or some outsourcing entity first hires a writer to produce a new original work which has yet been created as a “deliverable”, therefore there is a contractual understanding that the outsourcing entity will automatically be granted ownership of the original work, not the creator of the work.

Therefore, there is very little risk of copyright infringement in this type of arrangement.

Not so for Private Label Rights.

Privacy Label Rights

Private Label Rights (PLR) is the antithesis of a Work for Hire: a buyer such as a marketer purchases a license which permits the buyer to re-brand the content i.e. e-book, e-report, manual, blog post, etc. that is an already pre-existing original work, under their own name.

This pre-existing work is owned by a copyright owner or a PLR sales site, who is the content creator. Rarely is the PLR sales site the content creator, they usually purchase the content from third parties who write the content themselves and are the copyright owners.

The content creator who owns the copyright has given permission for their intellectual property to be shared without attribution, by selling you a license in exchange for a fee.

The buyer can then modify the content and resell it in many different formats. Or they can give the modified content as a free giveaway.

What was previously unclear to me but is no longer, is that the original creator who licensed usage of the content that you are modifying and reselling or giving away as your e-book STILL retains ownership of the copyright.

Evidently if Wikipedia is right, you cannot claim copyright if you use PLR. You will have other legal rights as may be given from the author such as rebranding and modifying the content, but not to copyright the work.

In other words, you are giving away or selling someone else’s property. The license only gives you permission to rebrand it and modify it, but you can NEVER claim the content as yours!

So by the true letter of the law, does this now really mean that another’s intellectual property can be given away as PLR claims?

I really don’t believe so.

The Inherent Dangers of Private Label Rights

You can now imagine that that there are GREAT inherent dangers when navigating the turbulent waters and walking through the hazardous landmines when purchasing private label content from PLR sales sites and other sources for your own usage.

Here are only a few of the inherent dangers you may be subjected to:

1) Plagiarism – few PLR sales sites ever create the content they provide. They are owned by third party authors who wrote the content and who own the copyright. YOU the buyer can easily be subject to cease and desist letters and other legal threats. Even full-fledged dragged out law suits.

2) Duplicate Content Issues – Most of the sites that trade in PLR content sell the same content to multiple purchasers. If the work is publicly published, Google will treat most of the versions of the same work as duplicate content, and if it senses same content was sold to multiple purchasers, will penalize those sites.

3) Vetting of Content is Nearly Impossible – The content you purchased for your e-book could easily be an unlawful derivative that defies easy detection. The source could have been taken from something not online elsewhere, or it could be that the content was so heavily sold it could be next to impossible to locate the original author.

Even the best due diligence and state-of-the-art plagiarism detection techniques cannot detect if this content is free of plagiarism.

4) Tarnishing your Trust and Credibility – If you include the purchased content in a member’s area, on your website, or in an e-book where customers and visitors may see the content and compare it to other copies of the work online, your public and your fan's realization of perceived plagiarism will surely tarnish your credibility as a content writer.

Imagine how your customer would feel if they bought your e-book for only $10, and shortly thereafter were to see the same content elsewhere online selling for $3. Surely they would feel betrayed and you would likely end up on the “Rip-Off Report!”

5) Low Quality Content – Most PLR sites sell articles and books in packs that are largely purchased unseen. This prevents the buyer from determining the quality of the content prior to purchase. Furthermore, a majority of the time the content offered is of very poor quality requiring an enormous amount of editing or it needs to be trashed altogether.

A Better Solution: Write Your Own Content

Avoid the dangers and pitfalls by taking the time to learn to create your own original great content for your-books, e-reports, manuscripts, and websites.

Learning to write great content offers a tremendous personal reward: you will then be the king or queen of your own amazing content – and no one can ever take that away from you!

It will certainly take some practice, but when you develop the skills to write your own content from personal experiences, new exciting adventures will unfold to your readers and your audience will become captive.

There will be less stress when thinking about avoiding the landmines of plagiarized content, and this wonderful achievement will give you a feeling of absolute empowerment and of being totally in charge.

A truly phenomenal and gratifying feeling of total authorship of content that is highly respected and revered by your visitors and peers in industry as manifested by comments is a natural high like no other.

Marketers and authors who want high-quality, stand-alone content that they can post on their blogs or sell as an e-book need to either write the content themselves or, at the very least, hire a good ghostwriter.

Most definitely either process will be more expensive and/or more time-consuming, however this the only way to ensure that you get high-quality work that is free of copyright issues and other pitfalls.

As tempting as PLR content may be, it’s probably best not to walk among its hazardous landmines.

Your best and most personally rewarding move is to be safe and to write your own content.

Wishing you all on Great Content journeys ahead! Please feel free to post any comments about this article.

As always, I would love to hear from you.



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Recent Comments


Kaju, great article. I did a lot of contract writing so understand you fully. If you get work from anyone for anything do a contract and make sure you get it right!

One additional thing is, even if you aren't the one stealing but you are an associate of the 'thief' you can get into trouble too.

Thank you for your comment Helen.

Yes as you say a contract is always recommended and often necessary. Great point, you don't even want to be associated with them, and this can bring you into big trouble!

Hello Kaju
An interesting read.

During my many years working on the net I have published at the very least a couple of thousand articles/blogs.
I see my work on a regular basis being passed of as someone else's.
In fact I have taken a few examples of my previous work and reworked them to publish within WA and been accused of copying someone else's work.
I have even been reported to Kyle and he in turn chastized me about it.
Of course I explained and sent him examples of my work from years ago which was date stamped with the original date and also with my Proper name and pen names of which I hold copyright to attached to the works.
Of course those that accused me of this didn't know this but Kyle informed them that everything I was doing was legal and above board because I was the Original Author.

Apart from this little example you have to bear in mind that although the printed word in its many forms is classed as intellectual property you can liken it to real estate property which of course can be bought and sold.

This being so if someone wants to sell their Intellectual Property then there isn't anyone to say they can't do this.

The problem lies with the people that are buying the material because there are so many of them re-publishing it,and the seller has no control over that.

Then you have Google wading in to say they can't publish it because its been published already, and that is quite correct, but not published under the new buyer's names.

Now although the original writer can keep hold of the copyright does this mean that the buyers of his work can be taken to task for publishing it under his or her own name? I think not, simply because something was for sale, he/she paid for it and then of course they were entitled to use it in any way they saw fit.

Copyright law is a very complex animal and I wouldn't like to get into it too deep simply because I don't know enough about it.

I will just say that if you buy someone else's written work then you must be prepared to accept the consequences of your actions if you then re-published it as your own.

At the end of the day is it worth it in our line of work where site content is king and its this content we hope to make money with?

Time will surely tell and each individual member will know within themselves if they are making money through their own efforts or off someone else's back.

What's that Latin phrase about the buyer beware?

Its gone but I'm sure you know the one I mean and it is a good fit for copyright do's and dont's.

Robert Allan

Robert Allen, thank you for such a great answer!
Coming from you, a voice of authority with thousands of posts/blogs out there - and it addresses this post on so many different levels.

You definitely hit the nail right on the head when you say -

"I will just say that if you buy someone else's written work then you must be prepared to accept the consequences of your actions if you then re-published it as your own.."

In other words, know that there is always a possibility that you can be in violation of someone else's ownership rights, even if selling the rights for reuse was legitimate .

If you want to make money off "...someone else's back" as Robert says, you better put some skin in the game.You must be prepared for anything, even a potential lawsuit.

The next question is, even if the buyers of the copyright owner's work cannot be taken to task for re-publishing it under their own name, as long as the original content writer still owns the copyright, shouldn't they at least have the right to be paid a ROYALTY upon any subsequent sales of the content?

Tricky your last remarks about Royalties Kaju.
Its not like a song/lyrics/tune etc like in your business.

The seller has forfeited their right to Royalties when they sell.
They have already been paid so can't really expect to be paid over and over again.
I take your point though.
Now I'm off for the night as its been a long day.
catch you again.

Excellent Robert, you have enlightened me about the royalty issue, Thank you and have a good night.

I don't agree with you.

Most PLR content comes with giveaway rights. Each product will come with a license detailing whether you are allowed to give it away, claim it as your own, sell it, master resale rights, etc.

For me, I'm able to set up a quality PLR video course as a giveaway to build my list, and use PLR packs or PLR email swipes as email autoresponder content. All this for a fraction of what it would cost to hire someone to do it -- which would cost hundreds of dollars.

I can use Resale Rights video courses as bonuses when people purchase stuff through my affiliate links. Adding 5 high-quality PLR courses makes it all more worthwhile for my subscribers to purchase a product. If I'm paying just $10 a month for a PLR membership site, it comes to good use.

PLR usually does come with giveaway rights. You ARE allowed to give it away. That's what you're paying for. The person who created the PLR content KNOWS this -- and they're happy with it because they know they can sell it 1000 times for $5 and make a lot of money. They might not let you transfer or sell the giveaway rights, but you can give it away yourself. There is NO stealing here.

Ben, thank you for the comprehensive information you have provided. It's always good to see the flip side point of view of the equation.

The question IS does the person who created the original PLR content still own the copyright after the content is given away?

More specifically, does the original content writer transfer their copyright ownership upon sale of said content to the PLR site?

This is where some confusion lies. According to Wikipedia, they don't. According to some who have commented here, they do.
It very well may be as you and others say, there is simply no standard and this will vary from PLR contract. to PLR contract.

That's right and if it is spelled out, specifically, there is no real problem.

Yes, you're right, you don't get the copyright when purchasing PLR.

If you had the copyright, you could sell PLR rights yourself, as if you created it.

Many PLR products let you sell it, but don't let you sell PLR or resell rights. They only let you sell personal rights (meaning you can sell it or give it away so that people can read the book, but people who buy from you can't sell it. Only people who buy straight from the product creator can sell the product).

However, there are many products that give you "Unlimited PLR Rights". This means you can do anything with them: Sell them, post them online, sell PLR rights, sell resell rights, or even sell master resell rights. You probably legally don't have any copyrights in it, but practically it doesn't matter.

Agreed wholeheartedly, Mickey.

I see the overall picture more clearly now. Thanks Mickey.

Thank you Ben, the ownership issue of copyright and how this gives the buyer resell rights is very complex - but what is clear is that your rights as a buyer will vary from contract to contract. There is no standard.

I appreciate your well thought out blog post. But I don't agree with some of your points.

I was a content writer for other sites. I did it mainly for experience, not for the pay. The pay per article stinks. There are many content writers that don't want to run a web site. They just want to write and sell it. And they want to make some decent money, so turning it into PLR is a way to increase their income.

If I write an ebook on some topic, I might get $100-$200 bucks as a one time fee - because content writers are notoriously underpaid. If I package it up and sell it with resell rights - I could potentially make thousands.

We are all here because we are interested in marketing. Not everyone is like that. I know a couple of excellent writers who hate marketing their stuff.

Plagerism is never ok. Using PLR as a jumping off point for more in depth content, or to get ideas or information is fine. I respectfully suggest you may be over dramatizing the PLR thing.

Your point is well taken Wgolden from the content writer's perspective.

If one loves to write content just for the sake of writing content without a marketing objective, and also wants to earn income by selling that content to these PLR sites, I understand their motivation.

It appears to me there is still confusion as to who own's the copyright after the original content writer will "... package it up and sell it with resell rights."

After the end buyer purchases the license, who owns the content? There is conflicting information here as I mention.

The point I am making - and believe me I'm not an expert in the legal stuff here - is if the original content writer ever owned and still owns the copyright after the content is sold with resell rights, then an uninformed final buyer can fall in harm's way of being sued for plagiarism even without knowing of any wrong-doing.

That can be a really bad thing for the buyer.

Well, someone who is selling PLR understands that they are selling rights to reuse their content. If you have a whole business about selling PLR material - no lawyer or judge is even going to look at you if you try to sue someone.

Google and the other search engines are very good at intercepting copied content, unless it is probably cited and quoted. So that is a big deterrent right there. If you put copied content on a web site, you run the risk of being penalized by companies that control your visibility online. Who would risk that? It's not worth it.

PLR has it's purposes, as I've mentioned. Sometimes repurposing, or using it for writing a new spin on old content is a lot easier than writing from scratch.

That being said, I wouldn't use any of it online. And I don't recommend anyone else do it either. I might repackage for an email to customers. I might use some ideas from some of the articles to flesh out an ebook.

Anything I publish online is original content. But PLR can come in handy for a lot of things.

Selling rights to reuse their content is different from transferring a copyright, isn't it? I think so.

In other words, the original content writer can sell rights for reuse and yet still retain their copyright ownership, therefore owning the content by law. If this is true, then a content writer certainly would have legal grounds to sue for plagiarism, and I'm sure there is a lawyer out there who would represent them.

It seems we are in agreement on the online issue. You wouldn't use PLR content for anything online, and I wouldn't either. That is the gist of the main example my blog post is referring to. Best not to use PLR content as an online e-book giveaway.

What you are implying here is what I said to Nyk on this thread, "Why not use PLR as a form of gathering research material?" , and is consistent with what you mention about getting ideas from PLR to flesh out an e-book.

That can be a great use for PLR.

There really isn't a large number of cases of Copyright infringement on these things. That may be good or bad, depending on which side you are on.

ANYTHING that can be posted can be copied, changed enough to evade detection and reposted to another site! It is completely different and no one can say where it came from!

I have been asked to do this many times and, yes, the money is not great, but there is a lot of work out there for this.

Very interesting reflections, and as you say Mickey, it depends which side you are on.

I may have a slight unpopular opinion here, but PLR work isn't that bad...if your purpose for it is good. Like.. I would probably see how it is structured and see if there is any solid information in there. Who knows, you may find your diamond in the rough there.

Now as far as writing your own original content... I am totally for it and agree that everyone should shoot for that. If you get PLR articles or books that have something solid for your particular niche subject...then yea use some of the material. But if you just slapping it on there simply because the work is there then no.

Basically another form of jogging your mind for ideas on subject matter. May not be the most popular and even have to pay for it most times.. but hey.. it's just something else that can be used in a positive light.

Nyk, thank you for your thoughtful insights on the subject matter and for coming by to read this article.

You mention here "....then yea use some of the material. But if you just slapping it on there simply because the work is there then no. " The problem is most ARE just slapping it on because the work is there.

This brings up a new idea. Why not use PLR as a form of gathering research material? You don't need to copy the content verbatim.

That I would be for, as long as the content is not copied "verbatim". But you can simply use Wikipedia for that.


Good morning Kaju,

As this is a whole new world for me I am happy with your detailed information, I will be careful to not fall into the trap.
I hope you have seen my post number 4, it could be of your interest.

Greetings from the south of Spain, Taetske

Hi Taetske, I must confess I have been so busy I've not seen it. I literally only had time to write this blog post and was out all day.

So any comments made here about "the latest movie content" I am quite uninformed about so far.

I will definitely read it, I need to catch up. Thanks!

Hi Taetske, yes I now did see Post 4 and will check it out on your website. I saw what you wrote in response to Mike below, and don't think there are any issues with it.

Interesting because today I came across a site on health. Great content. Went to see the author and it states that the content was written by xxx no name........then I went to see the comments and One lady stated she needed help to get started on a plan for a better life style, answer: Quote......good information thank you

The site is very well put together a wealth of information. So I followed up to see other comments. The same thing , you could see the persons interest. most of them were not answered or stupid comments like the above.

All's I was doing was looking at other sites to see what others were doing.

One guy had a foot long post , about Broccoli, post after post after post about Broccoli Interesting noooooooooo. You can't live on Broccoli alone.

Yet another had a site saying Healthy foods then goes on so post picture after picture of these fancy dishes all laydened with high content of sugar rich creams over flowing in mouth watering cakes and ice-creams no real content about the health benefits or why they might be healthy.

So reading your post here today showed me what you are talking about.It makes me wonder . The first site had over 4,000 followers. Living of of other peoples work..........

always a better way

Good morning Linda,

I hope you have seen my post number 4, I think this documentary will be of your interest.

Greetings from the south of Spain, Taetske

Hi Taetske, nice seeing you. I definitely will be reading Post Number 4 also. Thanks for the share.

Linda, a discerning eye like yours can certainly tell. After a while, you see all the dumb comments and you know. Thanks for giving us some first-hand feedback here.

Of all of the writing I have done over the last 7 years, for many buyers, much of it has been located on these 'PLR sites'

I did not plan it that way, obviously, but the money was OK...

As a writer of and, very early on, the buyer of PLR, I knew and know that when the writers write, specifically for these sites, they relinquish ALL rights.

The sites, themselves, become the owners as they have purchased all rights and grant certain rights to (their) buyers.

I absolutely agree that PLR is NOT the way to go for a professional website that you are trying real hard to make into an authority site!

Taking an article, blog or ebook, whether it is a PLR item or not and turning it into usable, nonduplicate piece is what I have done for the past 5 - 6 years.

That;s very interesting Mickey. Based on my research and what I've heard from informed sources, many of the writer's DON'T relinquish their rights. It depends on the specific contract.

You mention your PLR writing as "turning it into a non duplicate piece...", well, apparently that is NOT what many of these PLR sites are doing. Instead, they are selling the same duplicate content many times over. That's dangerous to the buyer.

Your answer here is the very reason why this is such a confusing topic, and wrought with contradictions.

That sentence says to take a piece that HAS been sold (or given) over and over again, MUST be made into a nonduplicate piece in order for it be 'usable' honorably.

I have done this for many buyers....

I was not disagreeing with you. The vast majority of sites that offer these pieces do nothing to make them anything other than they are: duplicate items. Some tell their clients to make them other than that, but most people simply copy and paste and keep on trucking.

A good tool for the prevention of this, should you decide to buy some of these, is

Mickey, thanks for that correction on the "nonduplicate" piece, and thank you for sharing Copyscape.

And unfortunately I do address the vast majority of PLR sites in this blog post. I'm sure there amy be good usable non-duplicable content out there,

In this latter case which is the minority, as long as the buyer is not in any harm's way then I don't see much objectionable to it.

Thanks for pointing out some of the perils and pitfalls we may encounter in this arena. Taking the easy way isn't always the best idea. I tried using fiverr a while ago and what I ended up paying for was plagiarized content (both times) that wasn't even well-written. For so many reasons it's just better to write our own content.

Lynn thanks for coming by, nice to see a new face!
I totally agree with you, and Fiverr is notorious for plagiarized content from what I hear from sources.

At best you get low quality content, at worst you might even get sued. I'd rather write my own content.

Now it is being called re-purposing the content when you redo it or use it as a guideline and rewrite it so that it passes copyscape.

The other thing is all these courses out there now that says they will show you to have your own eBook or content in 30 minutes. Anyone with a little bit of sense knows you cannot write good valuable content in 30 minutes. Yes, copy and paste and put your name on it.

it is so easy to make your own content. You learn something that is useful then you write a report on what you learned and you have content to use to build a list. I have built list before with a 1 page report.

Thanks for being the voice saying wake up and pay attention to what you are doing.

This is a welcome visit Bolipton, thank you for your important feedback. Great information that you share.

This is a topic I feel very strongly on.

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