Today Gary from DevOracles (follow him at @methode) shares some tips on copyright, blogging and content theft. Tomorrow Gary will return with a second post where he shares how he goes about getting copyrighted material used without permission by others removed.
First of all, who am I? I’m just another blogger, call me John Doe if you like, I’m nothing more than You or any other average blogger. I own a blog, I try to write on daily basis and always try to help others with reviews and IT&C related advice.
My experience with copyright started a few months ago, when I searched on Google to see what other bloggers are saying about a specific notebook. As most of the Google users, I clicked the top result and one of my articles showed up. But not on my blog. It was the exact copy of my article, the links, the images, the typos were all original, except the domain name.
Headed back to Google and started to search for full sentences from my posts and in no time I got more annoyed than I ever was: the search results showed me that dozens of my posts are copied as they are, without any modification, without a backlink to the original post and often these outranked my original posts.
I decided that I will not forgive this and will start a personal war against these websites. This is when I started to learn what is copyright, how can I copyright my content, to decide which license will best suit my needs, to write a proper Terms of Service and Fair Use Policy (TOS & FUP), register my work at a copyright office and lastly when all these were done, to force the infringes to remove my content from their websites.
First, what is copyright? Copyright is a form of protection –usually a document, — offered for the authors of intellectual work for example a blogger, which proves that the author is the real owner of the work and grants exclusive rights of selling and reproduction for the him or her. During the copyrighting process with the US Copyright Office, the author has to provide usually a “hard copy” of the work which is going to be copyrighted. This copy of the work can be for example a CD-ROM, a DVD or even a flash drive, which contains the work. If mailing these is complicated due to the big distance or other things, the copyright office offers FTP storage as well which simplifies the storing of the work. This copy will be deposited in a safe place and will be the evidence that the author is the real owner of the work and has all the necessary rights of reproduction or selling the work, and it can be used as evidence when copyright infringement occurs even in court.
That said, let’s see the Creative Commons Licenses. There’s a quite extraordinary fuss about Creative Commons, yet, I believe few of those who use the licenses issued by this non-profit organization effectively understand and realize what’s the license is about. It’s used on mammoth websites like Wikipedia, Flickr and even on the new US president’s blog (is that a blog?), Change.gov.
Types of the licenses vary depending on the needs of the author of the work, and they can be
- Attribution – when the work can be used by others only if, for example the third party links back to the original work
- Share-alike – if the work is reproduced by a 3rd party, it has to use the same license. For example a work copyrighted with this license, shall not be reproduced by a 3rd with Attribution license
- No derivative – the work shall not be modified in any way, but may be reproduced in integrity
- Non-commercial – the work shall not be used by a 3rd party for commercial purposes. For example, the 3rd party may not put your work on a CD-ROM and sell it on Wall Street
So far so good, I guess this was known by everyone. But did you know that even if you put all of these licenses on your website, the content will not be automatically copyrighted?
The Creative Common licenses are not meant to copyright the author’s content, but to grant or deny permissions regarding the use of his or her content by third parties. And that’s all. Nothing more, nothing less. Take these license as a few paragraphs of a properly written Terms of Service like CNN’s, it functions on top of an existent copyright but alone is just a nicely formed letter which covers what can and what can not be done with a specific intellectual work.
So, to be on point, if you use Creative Commons license on your website, that doesn’t mean that you’re safe and you can sue anyone who steals your work. You still have to copyright your work in a way which confers bulletproof protection, because if you have only a Creative Common license on your blog, you will much likely fail in front of a court.
Note that I said “much likely”. I said that because there was known case when a work which used Creative Common license and stolen by a 3rd party was defended in front of a court with success. But you should not rely on one single case.
But then how to copyright easily the content? And if possible, how to copyright your content for free? No need for Googleing and browsing 34 affiliate marketer’s website, I will answer. While content theft is sadly a concern for most of the bloggers and seemingly no country does anything to stop this, if you live in one of the countries which signed the Berne Copyright Convention you shouldn’t fear a second.
The explanation is fairly simple: in short, this treaty says that as soon as you publish an article on your blog, that’s automatically copyrighted, and yes, you are the copyright holder. You don’t have to provide anything fancy license or codes on your blog though those help if you arrive in court with a content thief.
As I said, it’s not needed but you should bring in everyone’s attention that the content they read IScopyrighted in the year when they read it and that YOU are the copyright holder. This compressed in one line should look like this:
© Gary Illyes – 2009
Of course even though I wrote that in this post, that doesn’t mean that, even though the article is written by me, the copyright is mine! It’s Darren’s because I transferred all my rights. (And now publicly stated this, too)
If you don’t want to use a Creative Common license on top of this copyright, you can spice the above line with the “All Rights Reserved” text. This way you expressed clearly that You have all the rights.
So, how do you know whether the country you are resident in signed the Berne Copyright Convention or not? I don’t know better location of this information, but this document, Circular 38a – International Copyright Relations of the United States which displays all the countries the United States signed this treaty with. If your country is in the list, you have automatic protection, provided by your own government who signed this treaty to protect Your rights.
Noteworthy, that this copyright expires 70 years after the author’s death, but if you don’t care about your great-grandson’s financial status, much likely this license is the best for you.
Now let’s see the Copyright issued by the US Copyright Office. And more importantly why do I mention this office and not the Zimbabwe Copyright Office, for the matter of the example.
Firstly, there are hundreds of thousands, or even millions of blogs on Blogger and WordPress.org. Most (if not all) of these organizations’ servers are situated in the United States thus when you publish a post, the place where it’s published is the United States. This applies to any blog which is served by servers located in the United States, not only the servers which are under the above mentioned organizations’ control.
Secondly, the United States joined two important copyright treaties which offers bilateral copyright protection for the author of the copyrighted work in most of the foreign countries. I say most, because there are countries which at the moment of this post didn’t join any of these treaties. To list some of the countries: Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Nepal, North Korea, etc. but there are only a few (see Circular 38a – International Copyright Relations of the United States for a complete list).
A huge difference between the Berne Convention and the US Copyright is, that during the registration process with the US Copyright Office, the author has to provide a copy of his work for the office which will be stored as evidence. This will come handy when the author has to prove its rights in a court, for example.
This governmental copyright protection was tested many times in US and international courts and since a governmental office watched the back of the author, the vast majority of these cases were won by the copyright owner.
Noteworthy, that this service offered by the US government is not free. There’s a price for the protection, but is fair and acceptable. At the moment of this post this fee is a stunning, one-time $35 (USD).
As a final paragraph, which shouldn’t be considered advice. I chose the service offered by the United States Copyright Office because I trust them more and I consider a very smart move that I have to provide the copy of my work. It’s up to you what will you going to use but be aware of the fact that when you or an attorney which acts on your behalf contacts the service provider of the copyright infringes, this may ask for evidence.
But this is something for the next part of this article (stay tuned for tomorrow) when I will talk in a less formal manner about the procedure of effectively fighting copyright infringes.
Note: Nothing in this article should be considered a legal advice. Problogger.net and its affiliates should not be held responsible for any loss caused by misuse of the information presented in this article. If you need copyright related legal advice, please consult a specialized attorney.