Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Protect Your Posts from Piracy! Essential Reads

A certain blogging friend of mine contacted me shortly after she launched her blog. Some incoming links in her stats had raised a red flag. Turns out, a blogger was copying her posts verbatim into her own blog. The lone indication on the other woman's blog that my friend had written the posts was a small "Posted by" line at the bottom along with my friend's name. How would you respond? Is this plagiarism? If so, is there any protection for bloggers' work?

Other common situaions: What if someone starts a blog with the same name as yours? What if you find out that a spamblog is scraping your posts? What if someone takes your best posts, changes a few words, and calls them her own? The bigger your blog gets, the more likely it is that you'll experience copyright violation. It's important to know the answer to these questions.

The Digital Millenium Copyright Act of 1998 protects writing posted online. Your writing belongs to you and you alone, though it's perfectly legal to quote from it for specific purposes as long as you're given proper credit. Your graphics and photos are also your intellectual property.

If you feel that someone's stealing your writing or graphics or otherwise violating your copyright material, write them a stern (but polite and businesslike) email that states the problem, cites the DMCA and insists that they immediately stop doing whatever it is that they were doing wrong or you will report them to their host. It should also state that you're within your rights to pursue legal action, but if you go so far as to threaten to do so you should probably be prepared to do just that. This has worked for me in the past. It's possible that the recipient will be shocked to realize that she/he was breaking the law when she/he thought that using the work was simply a tribute to a blogger she/he admires. Plagiarism Today has a few cease and desist letters you can use as models.

Essential Reads:
Creative Commons (Do you have a copyright notice on your blog yet?)
What You Do When Someone Steals Your Content (An absolute must-read!)
7 Online Copyright Myths
The Five Worst Ideas In Content Theft
The 20 Best Free Anti-Plagiarism Tools

Online Plagiarism Strikes Blog World (intersting article)
Please don't steal this Web content (CNET)

Disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer. This is not legal advice.
Image by Schmiegel via Flickr