Why Informal Information Sharing is Holding Your Organization Back

The following is an excerpt from my recent presentation “The Strategic Value of Copyright Licensing Solutions,” available to stream now.

Regardless of copyright licensing policies within most enterprises, there’s one thing that can’t be denied: there is a lot of informal collaboration going on right now. According to the 2020 Information Seeking and Consumption Study conducted by Outsell Inc., an estimated two-thirds of people surveyed report working at home during the pandemic, and a third of those individuals report sharing and using more content than they did when they were in the office. With so many people working remotely, looking at materials together or discussing an article at the water cooler have been replaced by virtual collaboration.

There’s a common perception, particularly in R&D-intensive companies, that researchers are responsible for most collaboration around published information. The 2020 Outsell data showed that those at the executive level – not just knowledge workers – are sharing content far more than others – an average of 25 times a week and with an average of 12 other people.

In addition to the prolific use of content by executive leadership, here are a few other ways published information is being used throughout organizations that you may not have considered:

Internal Presentations

Internal training presentations and meetings may include information from published reports to highlight market statistics and consumer sentiments to support assumptions about the outside world. Even when presentations are internal, there still may be sharing of published information that may not be licensed. There’s often that sense of “if it’s just internal, maybe it’s OK” – though incorrect, it’s an assumption that seems to be fairly common.

Competitive Intelligence Monitoring 

You might not think of competitive intelligence teams as being big gatherers and disseminators of information like R&D, but with companies competing to develop new technologies and ways to engage and retain customers, an understanding of the competitive landscape is imperative. CI teams will often host competitive intelligence sites that include news articles, published literature, press releases, and other materials related to direct competitors that they can make available as needed to other areas of the organization.


When an organization is making a regulatory filing to a government agency, they may need to document the efficacy or safety of a product or service. To do this, Regulatory Affairs employees need to find articles to support their claims. When submitting these materials to a government agency in support of a regulatory filing, it is important that they have secured the appropriate permissions to do so.  Without a licensing strategy in place, this can often mean reconfirming and requesting additional permissions.

Collaboration with Other Companies

When team members within your organization are collaborating with members of another organization (like agencies or partners), there is a misconception that “we’re all in one team, so it must be OK to just pass these articles along.” It’s not accurate, but because there’s no friction involved in sharing, people don’t realize that they’re not being copyright compliant.

The Velocity of Content Reuse Demands an Enterprise-wide Strategy

Informal collaboration that happens all the time isn’t necessarily being well supported in a more structured framework. The above examples are just a few areas of the business that need to be included and considered when working on an enterprise-wide content and licensing strategy.

The rapid pace of innovation demands enterprise-wide access to information. Alongside the information-intense groups within an organization – R&D, the C-suite, scientists, the people who just thrive on and require a lot of external information being brought in, processed, and reused – there are other areas of the organization that could benefit if that information was not being siloed.

We don’t want to stop the flow of information that is essential to collaboration, but when employees informally pass an article along much of the strategic value of the content itself can be lost. The benefits that can come from licensed content go beyond the words on the page.

Despite the fact that many are working remotely, it’s important to remember that nobody works entirely alone. People are working in teams and in groups, and they need to be able to collaborate with relevant information within those groups.  Having a copyright policy and licensing solution in place ensures that your organization is doing so in compliance with copyright.

Editor’s note: This article is republished with permission of the author, with first publication on the Copyright Clearance Center Blog.
Posted in: Communications, Competitive Intelligence, Copyright, Information Management, KM, Libraries & Librarians, Technology Trends, Training