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August 10, 2009

Copyright, Jurisdiction and You

In copyright law, the big news is always made by cases such as the Jammie Thomas verdict, the Tenenbaum trial or even The Pirate Bay trial in Sweden. As importance as these cases are, their legal applicability to the average person is dubious, especially since the RIAA has stopped suing file sharers.

For the cases that could have a direct impact on your life, you often have to dig deeper. This is true for the case of Brayton Purcell LLP v. Recordon & Recordon, a seemingly dull case about two law firms in a dispute over content posted on their respective Web sites.

However a recent decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in the case, if upheld by other circuits or the Supreme Court, could have a drastic impact on the way copyright issues are litigated in the United States.

How big is the difference? The dissenting judge on the panel said the following, “Under the majority’s opinion, every website operator faces the potential that he will be hailed into far-away courts based upon allegations of intellectual property infringement, if he happens to know where the alleged owner of the property rights resides.”

In short, if you are accused of copyright infringement, it is no longer safe to assume that you would be sued in your own district, but rather that you could be forced to litigate in the plaintiff’s court, enduring the extra costs and expense that comes with it. read more

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July 25, 2009

Did Twitter Launch An Official iPhone App? Or Am I Seeing Double?

Not too long ago, Twitter mentioned that they were becoming uncomfortable with third parties using their trade marked names (like Tweet and of course Tweetie) within the name of their software.

While they were not implying that they were going to immediately unleash the legal hounds (aka lawyers) against those violating their trademark, they may want to require apps to post a disclaimer–especially when they use their official name. read more

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April 23, 2009

Year of Original Content: Make Money From Copyright Thieves

Ask First Copyright badge - by Lorelle VanFossenI and Jonathan Bailey of Plagiarism Today have long been advocates of copyright protections and education, leading the way with projects such as “Ask First,” the Year of Original Content,”5 Content Theft Myths and Why They Are False,” and “The 6 Steps to Stop Content Theft.”

It seems that the rest of the world is waking up to the fact that stolen content is big business. Within the past two years, there are a variety of services you can use to track where your online content has gone, report and stop it. A new project is underway called the Fair Syndication Consortium that might put a dollar amount on that stolen content, paying you for others abusing your content. read more

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April 20, 2009

20 Law-Related Questions Every Blogger Should Know

Though journalism schools are often maligned in the blogging world as producing stale writing, they do teach many valuable lessons that are useful when running your own site.

One of those lessons is a primer in mass media law. By publishing works to the Web, one is essentially performing much of the same function as newspapers and television stations did exclusively just a few decades ago. However, the laws that govern such publications are not taught in most high schools nor most colleges.

So what should a blogger know about the law before they put up their first post? There are many things, certainly more than what can be covered in this post, but here are twenty questions every every blogger should be able to answer. read more

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April 6, 2009

It’s Your Work: Prove It

Story Updated 04/08/09 (see end) Jon Engle is a graphic designer from New Mexico. He has done work for many TV shows and TV networks as well as countless Web sites.

However, a recent series of events has put Engle’s reputation at risk. According to a post in Engle’s blog, a stock art site has accused him of copyright infringement. They have presented him with an $18,000 bill, threatened him with a lawsuit and even contacted his previous clients, claiming that he was under investigation for infringement and that the work he did for them “may have been stolen from their client.”

The problem, according to Engle, is that he created the works himself and that he believes someone uploaded them to the stock photography site without his permission, and in violation of that site’s terms of service. But the company, feeling that the uploads were legitimate, are aggressively protecting what they see as their intellectual property, using their copyright attorney.

However, it doesn’t matter who is in the right in this case. For either side to clear their name, they are going to have to prove that the work is theirs. Unfortunately, as Engle admits, this will not be a simple matter as he “would never have thought to plan for something like this”. Though he has some incidental proof, namely upload dates to LogoPond and metadata in the files themselves, these are hardly ideal since Engle is not completely sure when the images were lifted.

Engle’s story highlights the need for writers, artists, photographers and other creators to be aware that there are a million ways their work could come into dispute and to prepare for such a situation in advance. The end goal is be in a situation where, no matter what happens to your work, you always have proof that you created it first. read more

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March 30, 2009

What Gets Copied: A 3-Week Study

Three weeks ago I signed up my blog for a beta service by Tynt called Tracer in an attempt to both test the service and get a better understanding of how people are using my content.

The service works by having users embed a line of JavaScript code into their site and it tracks when users select or copies text and images from the site itself. Tracer also adds an attribution line to every copy that includes a special link Tracer can track, thus letting you know when people visit your site from copied text.

The information provided by Tracer is only aggregate in nature, there is no information about what an individual user did with your content, and Tracer does nothing to prevent copying, thus it is not a DRM solution. All Tracer does is analyze how users interact with your content and which pages are the most “active”.

To do that, Tracer follows four metrics: page views, selections (meaning when someone selects objects), copies (actually copying the work) and generated traffic (clicks on links generated by Tracer).

After over three weeks of running the service, I’ve gotten some pretty good data on my site and the results more than surprised me. Here is what I learned. read more

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February 26, 2009

Year of Original Content: FairShare Helps Track Content Theft

FairShare logoIn honor of my declaring war on content theft with the Year of Original Content,” FairShare is offering a limited number of free registrations for readers to try their copyright infringement tracking system currently in private beta testing.

Jonathan Bailey recently reviewed FairShare and said:

FairShare, unlike Attributor’s current business service, is targeted at bloggers and Webmasters who want to track how their content is being used and where, but do not require advanced tools and filtering. It works with Creative Commons licenses and tracks where content reappears, how much is used, if the content is linked and if the site displays any advertisements.

Though the service carries with it many different limitations, for bloggers that can not afford or don’t have the time to use a more advanced system, it is likely a very good choice.

FairShare creates a feed based upon your blog’s URL that is matched against the sites that FairShare monitors and tracks across the web, comparing the content against the original by checking the number of words copied, whether or not the matching site links back, if there are ads on the site, and other copyright violations in accordance with your selected Creative Commons license. FairShare supports all six v3.0 Creative Commons licenses. 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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A Million Terms, A Million Contracts

The Facebook TOS debacle last week shined a rare light on the subject of rights we give away when we sign up to use site or service.

Though Facebook’s new TOS, which removed the clause that lets users end their license granted to Facebook by deleting their work, was both of poor judgment and very worrisome, it was likely much ado about. Not only was the TOS rescinded shortly after the controversy began, but even with the new TOS, Facebook’s rights were still limited by the user’s privacy settings.

What has gotten significantly less attention is the sheer number of TOS’ that most Web users sign just as part of being on the Web. In an age where almost every site is also a “service”, it seems we’re creating more accounts than ever and, with every sign up, signing away more and more of our rights.

Most of us have lost track of all the sites we have registered for, the agreements we have signed and few of us actually take the time to even skim the terms that we do accept. Our rights to our online lives are in millions of pieces, scattered across countless companies and sites.

Piecing them back together, if it became necessary, could be nearly impossible. Worse still, as many of these companies continue to expand and grow the rights they give themselves via their TOS,

It has come time to question our love affair for new services and the terms they force us to agree to and seek ways to streamline and simplify this very messy process. read more

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February 18, 2009

This is the Year of Original Content

This blog has no brain - use your own - caution signI’m working on my annual Things I Want Gone from the Web article and I’ve personally designated this “The Year of Original Content.” We’re done playing around with feed scraping and autoblogging.

The blog echo chamber effect of someone blockquoting and linking the same content as a recommendation, echoing through the web without original content, is a beginner’s mistake. Don’t do it. Always add your original voice and content to your recommendations, telling your readers why it is important to leave this blog and go to another, then come back for more.

Google took action to penalize duplicate content within a site and between sites, and added bonus points for original and unique, appropriate and relevant keywords around links, especially link lists, rewarding original content providers with nicer PageRank scores. Similar actions are being taken by other major search engines, directories, and legitimate content aggregators.

As a serious blogger, you’ve learned the lesson and stay focused on creating original content. You link to other people’s content appropriately, taking care to protect their copyrights and not confuse your reader’s, putting other people’s content in blockquotes with clearly indicated links and credits.

For scammers, scrapers, and plagiarists, other people’s content has turned into a major money-maker as they use other people’s content for financial gain and misdirection. read more

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