There is a lot of misunderstanding surrounding content, copyright, and legal uses of your hard work. It’s a very complex subject and if you have a serious issue, please, please, please talk to a professional familiar with the laws!! I’m not a lawyer, don’t play one on TV, and am not giving any kind of legal opinion. Everything I say should be taken with a grain of salt as it is merely my opinion. Oh, and one more thing, What I’m talking about is based on U.S. law. Foreign regulations can be very different, so if that applies to you, check the statutes in your country.
James left me a very nice comment and asked about the process of creating content for the Web.
What is Copyright?
Everyone who owns a Copyright raise your hand. Did yours go up? If you are an active blogger, if you’ve ever taken and uploaded a picture, painted a painting, written an original story, written a song, or created something new via creative means, the chances are your hand should be up in the air. Just about all of us have a copyright on something. Copyright is automatic upon the creation of, as the law states, ”original works of authorship”. There are good reasons to register your work with the Copyright Office, but it is no longer necessary to be protected by the law.
Copyright simply means that the owner has the right to determine who can use their work and for what purpose. If you take a picture of your dog and put it up on your website, that picture belongs to you. No one can legally download it for their twitter avatar, or their computer desktop, to pass around to friends via email, or use for any commercial purpose without your permission. Doing so is potentially a violation of the Copyright Law. There are some exceptions allowed – reviewers can quote small passages from a work- that sort of thing (Fair Use). The law says you are in charge…
First let’s ask the question, “Is it really being lifted?” Often things that we believe are original are in reality ideas that others have thought of and published previously. That doesn’t make us thieves, just unaware of the previous publication. We may technically be infringing, but without “intent” we would probably be held harmless for most instances, provided we ceased infringement upon notification or otherwise learning of the infringement.
Ideas are not copyrighted. If you write a blog post expressing a new idea, and I read it and write my own article expressing the same idea but in my own way, with original content, I am probably not guilty of either plagiarism or copyright infringement. If I substantially copy your words, that’s a different story.
Where’s the Beef? | The Value Proposition
Now that we’ve talked about what your rights are, the question is, is it worth it to exercise them? You should know that getting actual and punitive damages requires that your copyright be registered a certain length of time before the infringement. If you have very valuable intellectual property (you’re a world famous photographer, for example) this may be worth the expense, but for most of us, the cost simply doesn’t warrant the effort. That is not to say that, if you discover someone directly plagiarizing your work (not the ideas, you recall!), you shouldn’t notify them that you own the copyright for it and they should cease using your work. I’d suggest, however that instead of having them pull your work from their site, rather ask them to provide credit and a link to your website or blog. This will probably be far more valuable than any damages they might have incurred. Remember, on the internet, inbound links are the currency. More = better. I encourage people to quote my work, share it on their Social Media sites, use it in their blogs, etc. if they will simply give author’s credit and link to the source.
Flourishing on the Internet requires a change of mindset. It necessitates a shift from an individual centered worldview to community centered one. As most Capitalists understand, the way to succeed in business is to focus on serving the customer. The same is true with the Internet. If you focus on bringing value to the community, it will repay you with the success you desire.
For more see: