Here’s that informative post I promised before i got distracted by those great steaks and cocktails at the AA. I hope at least, that anyone who publishes an RV blog – or any website for that matter – will find this information, well… informative!
Sure enough, a simple search revealed that entire posts of ours, including photos, were being republished in their entirely without our permission. Furthermore, we discovered that the site in question was a paid membership site, so it was using our content for profit!
The infringing website’s owner argued that because we make our posts available via rss feed, that the content was free to use as he wished. A bogus claim from someone who hadn’t done his homework, but a slightly grey area nonetheless.
TIP: To search a specific website for something you wrote, use Google and enter a distinct phrase followed by “site:” and the domain, like this…
Replace domain.com and the phrase or keywords to meet your needs.
While we were able to remove all existing and future content of ours from the website in question with one request, it got me thinking. I decided to do my own homework regarding the rights of web publishers, and gladly share what I found out here.
Ownership Rights of Web Content Publishers
According to the The Berne Copyright Convention, everything on the internet is considered copyrighted the moment it is written. Under the Berne Convention, copyright is automatic upon publication and does not require formal registration. When the United States joined the Convention in 1988, however, statutory damages and attorney’s fees continued to be available available only for registered works.
According to the World Intellectual Property Organization Copyright Treaty of 1996, “compilations of data or other material (databases), in any form, which by reason of the selection or arrangement of their contents constitute intellectual creations.” All blog content is stored in a database and is therefore an intellectual creation.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (title 17, U. S. Code) states that “Copyright protection subsists, in accordance with this title, in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.”
Finally, by republishing our copyrighted content on a for-profit website I confirmed that the infringing site was in violation of the federal copyright fair use doctrine, as described in sections 107 through 118 of the copyright law (title 17, U. S. Code)
Please note that I am by no means a lawyer, not even close, in any way. So I consulted one. I visited the free legal advice website LawGuru.com and asked:
What law can be cited when notifying someone who has republished original website content without permission, when they insist syndicated content (rss) is in the public domain?
My research proved me correct. Here is the answer I received:
You can cite 17 USC 106 which defines your exclusive rights, including a right of attribution, and 17 USC 501-506 which define your remedies. 505 authorizes recovery of attorneys fees and expenses and 506 may make it a criminal offense, particularly when done via the web.
However, you need to know that for the Court to have jurisdiction to enforce a copyright in the US, you must first apply to register it. It is a simple process for a copyright attorney to do that online. You should use an attorney, so that the attorney can simultaneously write a CDL (cease and desist letter) to this apparent infringer. A letter from you is not likely to have the same effect and not likely to be worded for optimum impact. In fact, most do-it-yourself non-lawyer CDLs are a disaster and some even create grounds for countersuit.
How to Re-Publish Blog Posts From RSS Feed
There are numerous blog aggregators on the interwebs that legally republish copyrighted content. They do this by only publishing an excerpt, assigning attribution, and including a link to the original source. But there may be times when one might wish to republish content from another source in its entirety, when it is appropriate to do so. Like when said person owns the copyright to the original content, or has explicit written permission to do so.
I’ve been considering doing just that with a new Tripawds Blog that will republish posts from our five featured blogs, giving readers one location to find all the best news, gear, gifts and nutrition advice for three legged dogs in one convenient site. Just how would I go about doing this?
To republish our own content and consolidate posts from multiple different blogs in one site, I plan to use the Autoblog plugin from WPMU Dev. Should you choose to do the same, of course, we know you’ll be certain you have the rights to do so.