How to Give Proper Attribution to Internet Content

As more accounting firms move toward developing their own content, the question of how to properly cite or attribute content sources has become a hot topic. Mishandling copyrighted information is easily avoidable – simply go back to the basics.


Whether a copyright mark exists, there is an implied copyright on all digital content. (We have a great blog post on copyright basics you may want to read.)


Most firms start developing their own content by finding source materials that provide topic ideas or background. These source sites include the AICPA, IRS, Thompson, and CCH as well as industry associations, publications and finance blogs. Inevitably, we are asked if firms can use these sources and if there might be any copyright issues.
The short answer is: Yes. In fact, the more references you can provide in a blog post, the better. The real trick is how to properly cite your sources. The rules of citation that we learned in grade school still apply here, but in today’s digital environment are applied a little differently. Here are 3 common citation scenarios.


Quoting Another Source

When quoting another source, you must always put that quote in quotation marks. If the source is found online, be sure to include a link to the source article. If it’s not online, you can go old school and cite the author, publication and title.


One thing to keep in mind when quoting text from someone else’s website is that many companies have content usage guidelines that will let you know how, or if, they want you to use their content. Take a look at HubSpot’s content usage guidelines[1] to get an idea what these might look like. In a nutshell, these guidelines are laid out to ensure you use the right stuff in the right way.


Citing Data

While quotation marks aren’t necessary when referencing data, it is important to provide a direct link to the data source. It’s not enough just to give written credit to the company.


Source References

We always suggest you file your sources. Unless the author is citing specific information, we don’t often see source references listed in the article. However, you should have this information on hand in case you are asked for it.




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