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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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January 12, 2009

Tweetbacks, Copyright and Scraping

Yesterday, a friend of mine on Twitter sent me a DM to alert me about a what she said “looks like aTwitter scraping tool”. I clicked the link expecting to find a social aggregator gone awry or a spam blog. However, instead, the link instead pointed to Joost de Valk’s new Tweetback plugin.

The plugin, as well as Dan Zarella’s plugin by the same name, searches Twitter to for tweets that link back to posts on the blog and displays those tweets on the site under their respective entries, much like a trackback, but with Twitter (hence the name).

These plugins do, by their very nature, copy and paste tweets, displaying them on the user’s Web site, all without the explicit permission to of the author. Where trackbacks are sent from the linking site and comments are left intentionally by the visitor, these plugins are different in that they activelhy go out in search of these “tweetbacks” (including parsing URL shortening services), even though the creator has taken no steps to ensure they appear on the site.

This, in turn, raises serious issues about copyright, scraping and more that have to be at least looked at. Is it legal to copy and publish tweets from others without permission, simply because they link back to your site? The answers are not as simple as one might initially think. read more

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January 5, 2009

5 Lesser-Known Benefits to Creative Commons

Bloggers use, and don’t use, Creative Commons Licenses for a variety of reasons. Some feel that it is a great way to give back to the community, others use CC licensing as a form of promotion, encouraging their content to be used with attribution, and others feel that it is a way to promote copyright reform.

However, Creative Commons can actually provide bloggers benefits that go well beyond the buttons and badges. In the uncertain copyright climate of the Web, having a firm lawyer-written license, regardless of what it says, can have huge benefits over the ambiguity that comes with not having one.

Here are just five less-promoted ways that choosing a CC license can help you, your site and your content, even as you surrender some of your rights in a particular work. read more

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December 29, 2008

Is “Deep Linking” in Trouble?

Linking directly to individual pages on a Web site instead of the home page, also known as “Deep Linking”, is a staple of blogging and the Internet in general. It is used as a means to reference sources, forward interesting articles and, generally, get information out there on the Web.

Without deep linking, social news would likely not exist, many Web 2.0 services (such as Delicious) would have to close and even Google would have to drastically change the way it operates. The Web would, almost overnight, become a much more difficult to use and less efficient place.

However, a recent lawsuit filed by GateHouse media has asked new questions about deep linking and its possible legal implications.

Though the lawsuit is clearly misguided in some ways, including the claim that the site loses advertising over deep linking, it is worth taking a quick moment to look at some of the potential legal hazards that come with deep linking and how to avoid them. read more

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December 22, 2008

Updates: Copyright Cases to Watch

Last year on this site, I wrote a series of articles about important copyright cases that could seriously impact blogging and the Internet at large. All in all there were five such cases, each with the ability to drastically change how bloggers and other Web publishers operated.

Now that more than a year has passed since the original articles, it seems like a good time to go back and see what has happened with those cases where, they sit right now and where they are likely heading. read more

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December 8, 2008

When Does Social Media Copying Go Too Far?

Yesterday, on CenterNetworks, Allen Stern reported on a new social news site, Social|Median. The story, however, didn’t center around Social|Median’s features or capability, but instead on how, according to Stern, it “take(s) content from around the Web, put it onto Socialmedian and let you comment about it.”

Though I did not see any widespread copying of content on the links that I checked (example), it appears that the amount of content copied in the snippet is determined by the user posting the link, not the site.

Still, it is clear that there has to be a balancing act between social media and content creators. Though social news sites need to use some of the content and conversation from the blog in order to properly function, if they take too much, there is nothing left to encourage content creators to participate or permit their works to be used.

Finding this balance is tricky and has been a problem that has plagued social news sites since the beginning. Many sites have faced criticism for “scraping content” or “fragmenting the conversation” and the concern remains at the top of mind of many Webmasters, especially when dealing with new social news sites that do not drive significant traffic.

So how should social news behave? The last is not very clear but the standards on the Web seem to have spoken to at least some degree. read more

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December 1, 2008

Flickr Alternatives for Copyright-Conscious Photographers

Flickr has been in the spotlight a good deal recently, but a lot of it has not been good news. It has been revealed that Flickr, like Facebook, strips out copyright metadata from uploaded images. Combined with a confusing API, licensing scandals, companies selling photos as cell phone backgrounds and more, it is easy to see why some are skittish about keeping their images on the site.

This has some photographers, bloggers and artists uneasy about using Flickr or at least using the site exclusively. Many have begun seeking alternatives to Flickr but alternatives seem to be thin. Though image hosts such as Photobucket exist and are great for embedding images into other sites, they lack the sense of community that Flickr provides and, in the case of Photobucket, can raise copyright issues of their own.

So what other sites are there for photographers and artists that might fulfill some or all of Flickr’s function while providing a slightly better copyright environment? There are actually many, but here are three of the more important ones to watch. read more

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November 17, 2008

5 Holiday Copyright Hazards for Bloggers

For at least some sites and some bloggers, the holiday season has already begun on a rather depressing note. Sites that have posted prices or information from Wal-Mart’s upcoming “Black Friday” advertisements have already been threatened. At least one site, SearchAllDeals, has received a DMCA Takedown Notice regarding it.

Even though the copyright element of the claim is questionable, especially considering that you can not copyright facts, including prices, it is clear that the holidays can introduce a new set of copyright hazards for bloggers and other Webmasters.

So, as we rapidly approach the holiday season, here are five of the biggest copyright hazards that you may need to watch out for as you celebrate the season online. read more

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October 27, 2008

Could Your Host Disconnect You?

Jeff Rosenstock is the head of Quote Unquote Records, a small, independent label that gives its music away for free on their site.

However, earlier this month, he suffered a setback as his site was pulled down, seemingly for no reason. According to his host, the cause was that they felt he was infringing copyright even though all of the music on his site was content he had the right to distribute, much of it his own, and no one had filed a complaint.

It was an unnecessary and extremely pro-active takedown, but it has had many other bloggers, musicians and filmmakers worried. Could their ISP do the same thing to them and, if so, what could they do about it?

Fortunately, cases such as Rosenstock’s are relatively rare and the odds of it happening to any one person are very slim. But after Rosenstock endured several days of downtime before his site was restored, it has many very nervous about the potential for disaster. read more

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October 20, 2008

Joining the Media Bloggers Association

According to the Citizen’s Media Law Project, there were over 250 lawsuits filed against bloggers for defamation and another 150 lawsuits filed dealing with copyright issues. Though the number of lawsuits is still fairly small compared to the number of people blogging, there has definitely been an upward trend in recent years (link PDF).

At the same time, bloggers have been striving to gain equal footing with mainstream media representatives in obtaining access to both people and events. However, they have typically had an uphill struggle in obtaining such access for reasons that are not always clear.

Though bloggers have begun to act more and more in the same capacity as the mainstream media, they have typically not had the legal training and information nor the access of journalists. Few come from mass media or law backgrounds and thus often struggle with the legal issues surrounding blogging and even fewer have the connections and knowledge to obtain critical access to important events.

This is where the Media Bloggers Association steps in. It seeks to help grow citizen journalism by providing it with some of the same training and access that journalists in newspapers or television have. The goal is to promote blogging and citizen journalism as its own form of media and give bloggers equal footing, both in the courts and on the streets, to other journalists. read more

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