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October 14, 2011

6 Reasons to Register Your Site with the U.S. Copyright Office

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US Copyright Office LogoIf you’ve been reading my column here on the Blog Herald, then you already know that copyright is placed into a work the moment that it is created. This means that you don’t need to do anything at all in order to ensure that your work is protected and that others who misuse it are breaking the law.

But while that’s definitely true, it’s also not quite the full story. In the U.S., though copyright is granted in a work the moment its fixed into a tangible medium of expression, one does not have all of the tools needed to enforce that copyright until they take an additional step.

That additional step is timely registration with the U.S. Copyright Office (USCO) and for many bloggers, both in the U.S. and abroad, it’s a both a good idea and an important step you can take to protect your work.

If you’re wondering why you should register, there are actually many but here are six of the big reasons to get you started (PDF). read more

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April 22, 2011

What Bloggers Need to Know About Trademark Law

There are three major types of intellectual property law: Copyright, Patent and Trademark.

The distinction between the three can often be confusing and gray, but in general copyright protects artistic expressions (literature, movies, photos, music, etc.), patents protect ideas and inventions and trademark protects any “mark” associated with a business.

However, trademark is very different from other areas of intellectual property. You don’t run afoul of the law simply by copying the mark itself but, as a tradeoff, trademarks can protect a much wider variety of things that would not fall under any other area of protection.

Yet, at the same time, trademark often overlaps with copyright, especially when dealing with some logos, and there is a great deal of confusion between copyright and trademark in discussions online.

All in all, trademark is a thorny and often misunderstood area of intellectual property law that demands a closer look, especially if you routinely write about companies or use trademarks in your post.

So what do you need to know about trademarks? The basics are below.

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April 15, 2011

Content Licensing 101 for Bloggers

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As we talked about last week, whenever you post a blog entry, upload a photograph to your Flickr account or post a video to YouTube, you’re creating copyrighted work and sharing it with the Internet.

As the creator and copyright holder of that work, you have certain rights and protections over it, including the ability to bar others from making unauthorized copies or publicly display/perform the work.

However, you might not want to enforce all of those rights. For example, you might be perfectly happy to let others copy your work and post it on their sites provided they give attribution back. Or, you might be happy to have them print out copies for their personal use so long as they don’t attempt to sell them.

This is where content licensing comes into play. It’s the means by which you give someone (or everyone) a certain amount of rights to use your work even though that use, without your permission, would have been a copyright infringement.

As such, it’s important to understand the basics of copyright licensing and what some of the options are out there. This is so you can maximize what you get out of your writing and, equally importantly, prevent misunderstandings and accidental infringements by others.

With that in mind, here’s a basic rundown of what you need to know to be savvy about content licensing on the Web.
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April 8, 2011

5 Copyright Facts Every Blogger Should Know

Copyright SymbolWhen it comes to blogging and the law, there is one area of the law that you pretty much can not avoid: Copyright.

Though you can avoid libel by never talking about anyone else, the same goes for privacy, and you can largely avoid trademark by being careful with your domain and not creating a business, it is impossible to blog and avoid copyright.

The reason is simple, every time you hit “Safe Draft” in WordPress, post a comment on another blog or take a photo for your site, you’ve created a copyrighted work and with that comes a set of rights and responsibilities you need to be aware of.

However, the issue of copyright is far too broad and far too complex to cover in any kind of depth in one column. So, in order to help bloggers who might not understand the law get some basic information, here are five copyright facts that you need to be aware of, all of which we will likely go into in future columns.

Bear in mind that these facts are based on U.S. law and, in some cases, may vary in your country. You can also read more about these facts, and other basic copyright information, on the U.S. Copyright Office website. read more

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July 15, 2010

Inevitable: WordPress To Sue Thesis Founder

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Another day, another impending lawsuit brews on the horizon. While no briefs have been filed yet, it looks like WordPress is probably going to have to sue a successful theme developer in court in the (not to distant) future.

Andrew Warner of Mix Energy fame was able to interview the founder of WordPress (Matt Mullenweg) as well as Chris Pearson (the creator of Thesis) over whether or not Thesis needs to embrace the way of GPL (or General Public License for you non-geeks).

After watching (or rather listening) to the video for almost an hour, it looks as if the only ones who are going to win in this upcoming battle will be the lawyers who once again will go home full of food and cash.

Update: video added below. read more

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February 23, 2009

The Year of Original Content: How to Fight Back Against Abusers

This blog has no brain - use your own - caution signI’ve declared this the Year of Original Content and I’m inviting you to help join the fight against those who abuse our content.

Scam, spam, splog, and scraper blogs are big business, taking in $3.2 billion dollars in 2007 just in the United States. Russia, China, Zimbabwe, and other countries are generating even more money with a variety of Internet scams. Many of these sites and blogs use our original content to generate that money, often from blogs that have no advertising nor direct income – making money from our hard work.

It’s time to fight back. It’s time to be proud that you are the unique voice in the wilderness. It’s time to honor your hard work and declare, “I decide who can and can’t take advantage of me!”

Here are some ways you can join the call to celebrate original content and fight back against those abusing our content without our permission. read more

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January 19, 2009

Avoiding Copyright Scams

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It seems that every week a new product or service is announced that promises to protect your work in some way or another. Whether it is helping you “register” your copyright, detect plagiarism or even outright prevent infringement, there are tons of companies that want to take your money to protect your work.

However most of these products turn out not to live up to their hype. At best they are a waste of time, at worst they are an outright scam.

So who is out to scam you and who is here to help? Well, here are some of the more common types of copyright protection services and what you should look out for before you sign on the dotted line. read more

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August 25, 2008

The Most Aggressive Copyright Holders

When it comes to matters of copyright, some companies have an earned reputation as being attack dogs. They are known for filing takedown notices at the drop of a hat, throwing lawsuits around at will and generally intimidating anyone that they feel gets too close to their intellectual property.

Though there is nothing wrong with being aggressive about your copyright, especially when you make your living from it. The problem comes when companies cross the line and sacrifice the rights of users and the public in their bid to protect their work.

These attack dogs are dangerous for many reasons. First, they are the ones most likely to file takedown notices, including against bloggers. Second, they often times trample free speech and run afoul of the law. Finally, they also end up writing both the copyright news we read and many of the copyright laws we follow.

So who are the most aggressive copyright holders? Though such a list is entirely subjective, here is my personal list of the most aggressive major copyright holders I have been tracking. read more

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