Your Copyright Notice Status Update On Facebook Is Worthless

 

Evidently, my lack of friends on Facebook means I don’t have this nonsense cluttering up my feed.

In response to the new Facebook guidelines I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, illustrations, graphics, comics, paintings, photos and videos, etc. (as a result of the Berner Convention). For commercial use of the above my written consent is needed at all times!

(Anyone reading this can copy this text and paste it on their Facebook Wall. This will place them under protection of copyright laws.) By the present communiqué, I notify Facebook that it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, disseminate, or take any other action against me on the basis of this profile and/or its contents. The aforementioned prohibited actions also apply to employees, students, agents and/or any staff under Facebook’s direction or control. The content of this profile is private and confidential information. The violation of my privacy is punished by law (UCC 1 1-308-308 1-103 and the Rome Statute).

 

Facebook is now an open capital entity. All members are recommended to publish a notice like this, or if you prefer, you may copy and paste this version. If you do not publish a statement at least once, you will be tacitly allowing the use of elements such as your photos as well as the information contained in your profile status updates…

 

Yes, it seems that someone vomited some legalese and with a quick cut & paste job it’s all over Facebook. And, sadly, it seems that most people who are posting this think it means something legal. Sorry, it doesn’t.

Besides there being nothing known as the “Berner Convention” (it’s the Berne Convention, btw), the Rome Statute established the International Criminal Courts and despite how oppressive Facebook may be, it’s not engaging in any “core international crimes” last I checked. Sure, there may be privacy breaches but not so much in the area of war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity. Although, there are some that think Facebook itself is a crime against humanity. But that’s a different story.

Anyway, by posting this nonsense as your Facebook status you change nothing about your relationship with Facebook. See, when you signed up to get a Facebook account you clicked that you read and agreed to their Terms of Service (TOS), even all the updates. And despite the fact that you probably didn’t read the TOS you’re still bound by them. You can post all the copyright notices you want and Facebook’s only obligation to you is in the TOS, so read them if you’ve got nothing better to do.

If you don’t like how Facebook works, then delete your account. Despite what you may believe, Facebook is not the government. It is a private company (with crappy stock) and while they do have to comply with many local, state, national and international laws they don’t have to comply with any attempt at a legal notice you post as your status update.

If you really think Facebook cares, you obviously don’t know much about Facebook. So, please do the rest of us a favor and stop posting this nonsense.

Thanks!

For other articles about the legal implications of being online, check out my series on blog law and online rights.

Disclosure: While I am a lawyer, I am not offering legal advice. Posts on legal matters are intended to provide legal information and do not create an attorney/client relationship. This post is part of my Blog Law Series. This post is was not sponsored, reviewed or edited by Facebook. I am not affiliated with Facebook.

Image Credit

Sara

Avoiding Copyright Pitfalls on Pinterest

 

Copyright Issues with Pinterest

You either know what Pinterest is or you don’t. For those who do, just skip this next section. For the uninitiated, let’s bring you up to speed.

Pinterest in the online equivalent of all those torn out magazine photos, articles and recipes you’ve got taped on your wall, stuffed in a drawer, bookmarked in your browser even though you have no idea how to find them ever again, or piled high in a ‘to be filed’ which used to teeter on your desk until it fell over so now it’s on the floor. For those of you who are ‘my age’, it’s an online cork board. For the younger crowd, it’s similar to a vision board only you can have many vision boards without having to put together any more furniture from IKEA.

In a single word, it’s genius! Pinterest is a hybrid of Etsy, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Posterous and a Blog. As of the writing of this post, Pinterest is an ‘invite only’ community. It’s not some secret handshake kinda place, I think it was done that way to manage initial traffic. If you’re not on Pinterest but want to be, just email me and I’ll send you an invite. (As of August 2012, Pinterest is open to anyone without an invitation) So, now that you have an idea of what Pinterest is why the talk about copyright?

I signed up for Pinterest shortly after it went live. I used a stealth email so I can lurk and see how this thing worked. Sure, with about an hour worth of work you could probably connect me to my James Bond-ish Pinterest but I signed up for a very different reason. Anytime there’s photo and content sharing there are potential copyright issues. And I wanted to check it all out and see how it would unfold.

First, let me say that the Pinterest Terms and Conditions are pretty straight forward. While I’d guess about 90% of the Pinterest population just clicked the ‘agree’ box, I, in fact, have read the T&C. Several times. There are places where they are convoluted and exceedingly verbose. And, in many instances they’re quite a bit more ‘techy’ than they really should be. But, being a lawyer who works with online content creation, protection and sharing I’m probably a bit deeper into the reality of how a site like Pinterest is used than the average corporate or tech attorney. That being said, I didn’t see anything in Terms and Conditions or Copyright notice that would raise any red flags related to privacy or copyright protections.

I do have serious concerns about Pinterest hosting full-size images on their server, often without knowledge or permission from the original copyright holder. In doing this, Pinterest removes all references to the the original source. That creates significant issues with copyright (as well as other issues), especially when the copyright holder may not have provided authorization, tacit or otherwise, for the redistribution of the image. Now, the image can easily be redistributed without any determination of whether the image is protected by copyright. This is an issue I have with Pinterest directly, and not necessarily with Pinterest users. And, of course, Pinterest is based in the US yet it is a global board and thus there are concerns with protecting the rights of non-US citizens as well.

Now, that being said, let’s get to the reality of how Pinterest is used. The site is intended for users to ‘pin’ content to your virtual pinboard. By pinning a specific web page you can add comments, categorize that ‘pin’, and connect an image. And by doing so, potential copyright violations are apt to occur.

It’s not 100% the pin-ers fault, nor 100% Pinterest. Much of the issues related to copyright problems come about because the law is not straightforward. There is a great deal of wiggle room in copyright, which tends to fall under the category of Fair Use. And while there are licensing issues that are addressed in the Pinterest Terms and Conditions, the fact that people don’t read them combined with a lack of understanding of what Copyright Fair Use really is means that problems are bound to happen.

How can you avoid Copyright Pitfalls on Pinterest?

I’m glad you asked!

1. Avoid ALL cutting and pasting – When pinning on pinterest, the point is to add your insights, comments or thoughts NOT to cut the article and post it so you never have to reference back to the original. Since you’re linking to the original (or what is believed to be the original), in the ‘Describe your pin’ window you write something meaningful to you.

2. Pin the original source – I know that re-pinning is an acceptable practice and a time saver. However, if you’re really interested in what was pinned, take an extra minute or two and verify the source. Sadly, I’ve seen things re-pinned that don’t belong to the site mentioned.

3. Never copy an image from Pinterest to use on your blog! – Chances are whatever you’re doing will not fall under fair use, so you’ll risk the copyright holder saying you’re infringing their rights. If you really like what you see, reference back or get permission.

4. Don’t perpetuate the wrong owner – I’ve seen the same image attributed to many different blogs. This is not only frustrating for the reader but it’s downright maddening for the original owner. It takes a lot of work to get your images taken off other sites, and when you have to take extra steps to prove you’re the real owner it’s not only maddening but also very time consuming.

5. Watemark your images – I know that many photographers do not like to watermark images because it takes away from the beauty they were capturing. And for the average blogger, like myself, adding a watermark isn’t always easy (especially now that Picnik is shutting down but it’s gotten easier thanks to free sites like PicMonkey). It’s important to know that Pinterest doesn’t crop the image. That means the watermark will remain, letting people know the original source. This is not foolproof, but it’s a start.

Hope this helps with honing your Pinja skills!

UPDATE: On April 6, 2012, Pinterest updated its Terms of Service to specifically address several issues regarding what Pinterest can do with uploaded images as well a creating what they believe are simpler tools for reporting copyright violations. Overall, the general nature of Pinterest did not change. The one big change in the platform to help those whose words were lifted was to limit the comment to 500 characters.

For other articles about the legal implications of being online, check out my series on blog law and online rights.

Disclosure: While I am a lawyer, I am not offering legal advice. Posts on legal matters are intended to provide legal information and do not create an attorney/client relationship. This post is part of my Blog Law Series.

Sara

Fotolia Stock Photo Service Review

Photo Credit: Sample Image from Fotolia

You know what a stickler I am about the proper use of photos on blogs and websites. As a lawyer who has worked with clients to protect their images and use others’ images properly, I was very pleased when Fotolia contacted me to check out their stock photo service. I was provided with complimentary access for a month. You may have even noticed that for the last month the photos I’ve used have been a little different.

Fotolia offers exceptional quality images of just about anything. With nearly fifteen million images and HD videos available, finding just the right image for whatever you’re doing is easy. My problem was narrowing down the options.

As a royalty-free stock photo site, you just buy the image in the size you want for the purpose you need and you’re good to go. You can edit the image or create a derivative work and still be within your rights so long as you buy the correct type of image.

Fotolia charges you based on the size of the image. For the average blogger you’re probably looking at about $1-$3 per image. That may seem high, but for the peace of mind that you’re not risking your site being taken down it may be well worth it. For designers, the prices really can’t be beat. And for consultants and companies, the quality and cost is exceptional. With sizes ranging from 400×300 to over 15mp, there are photos for almost anything you would create.

When I was using the stock images, I credited each photo. The terms of Fotolia do not require attribution. I just felt it was a way to let you know where I got my images so I can be up front about the source.

If you’re looking for high quality stock images, look no further. I often use public domain or creative commons images, neither of which offer the versatility of stock photos. Fotolia has images for any type of post you may write, promotion you may be doing or design you are creating.

Check out Fotolia today. It’s free to join, you just pay for the images you want.

Disclosure:  Fotolia provided me with a one-month complimentary subscription to facilitate my review. I received no monetary compensation. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Sara

Blog Law: Photo Use and Etiquette

Rules for Online Photo Use

Most SEO experts suggest using at least one photo in every blog post. From an aesthetic perspective it’s a good idea, especially when the photo has something to do with the content. Photos and images are especially important for food blogs. And, of course, there is that “A picture is worth a thousand words” adage.

I always thought everyone knew that copying and pasting photos found on the internet was a definite no-no given that nearly every image created in the last 30 years is still protected by copyright, whether here in the US or from another country extending such rights. Boy was I wrong! When I spoke at Blissdom, one of the questions I asked of the audience was how many people have had a photo stolen. Nearly every hand in the room went up. WOW! We’re talking about fifty-some people (probably more). I went on to ask how many people have used Google Images to find photos. Quite a few hands went up.

Today I want to discuss using photos found online. I will not talk about using images from a brand’s website. The focus is on those images and photos found by searching the internet and coming up with page after page of images that may be suitable for your needs.

What is Copyright? Copyright is protection created by the US Constitution that give virtually every author the exclusive right to use or reproduce their work. This is a federal law and therefore uniform across all states. And, as the US Government has signed on to a variety of international copyright agreements protection is essentially world-wide.

US Copyright is a protection that applies to original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium. “Original” means that an author produced a work by his or her own intellectual effort instead of copying or modifying it from an existing work. “Fixed in a tangible medium” means that the work is able to be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated. Your blog is the necessary ‘tangible medium’. (17 USC 102)

Nearly every photo taken gives the author (the one who takes the photo) a protectable right to prevent others from using or reproducing that image. Of course there are exceptions, but generally, the photographer owns the copyright. This is actually very important to know should you ever hand your camera to someone else to take a photo. That’s a completely different discussion, but don’t get offended if you ask your photographer friend to use her camera and she says no.

How do I get a Copyright? Copyright is automatic upon creation of an original work of authorship. With regard to photography, with few exceptions, every image is accepted to be covered by copyright upon putting the photo onto a hard drive or similar device.

Continue reading “Blog Law: Photo Use and Etiquette”

Sara

Guidelines for Posting and Using Photos on Photo Sharing Sites

Using and Posting Photos on Photo Sharing Sites

Used to be that we would upload our photos to our computers and then email them out to friends and family. Then the photo files got to be larger and larger and it become annoying to send one photo at a time. Photo sharing sites were developed to help facilitate showing our friends and family photos of our kids and vacations. Today they’re both virtual albums for the casual photographer and portfolios for the professional. It simplified things. Somewhat.

But because some people believe that if it’s on the internet it’s free, they feel they can take any photo they can access and use it for whatever purpose. Unfortunately for many images that is not true. But the fact is that many people never actually read the Terms and Conditions of signing up for a photo sharing site. And in bypassing that critical step they may unknowingly agree to a royalty-free license for anyone to use, modify or distribute their image. You may own the copyright but it’s basically worthless.

Posting Photos on Photo Sharing Sites

The big two – Flickr and Picasa – do not, by its terms, take any actions as to the copyright or license of photos you upload. Both have clearly developed Creative Commons communities which allow users to set the terms and conditions by which their photos may be used by others.

One of the major sites that is not as protective of your copyright is PhotoBucket. There are other smaller photo sharing sites that have used similar terms. By uploading your images you are basically giving up your claim of copyright because you are authorizing such a broad and sweeping license. You’re not giving the right to sell the image but that’s about all you are retaining.

By displaying or publishing (“posting”) any Content on or through the Photobucket Services, you hereby grant to Photobucket and other users a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, worldwide, limited license to use, modify, delete from, add to, publicly perform, publicly display, reproduce and translate such Content, including without limitation distributing part or all of the Site in any media formats through any media channels, except Content marked “private” will not be distributed outside the Photobucket Services.

Have you ever read the Terms and Conditions of your photo sharing site? Probably not. I don’t blame you. The type is small, a bunch of legalese and we’re so used to just clicking ‘Agree’ and being on our way.

I am just using these three because they are the largest. I highly recommend checking out if your photo sharing site allows you to maintain creative control over your uploaded imaged.

Using Photos From Photo Sharing Sites

You’re looking for a photo so you go to Flickr, PhotoBucket or Picasa and look for something that fits your post. A quick search yields seemingly endless possibilities. You choose a photo and download it to your computer so you can use it in your post. Maybe you credit with a link to the page you found it on, maybe not. You might just put the username or profile name. Depends on how you’re feeling.

The fact that you don’t know much about the image should give you pause. At minimum you should believe that the person who posted the image has the copyright on the image. Barring any information to the contrary, the person who takes a photography will normally obtain copyright in that image. Did you check to see if there were any licenses on the image? Did you specifically search for a creative commons licensed image?

Taking an image from a photo sharing site can open you up to potential problem if you do not have the right to use the image. Not every photo is licensed for use on these sites. And most that do require, at minimum, some type of attribution. Knowing what type of attribution is required is important.

If you want to use images from photo sharing sites, know what you are and are not permitted to do. If the copyright holder is gracious enough to allow you to use the image under a creative commons license, follow their requirement.

Conclusion

Know what you’re agreeing to when you post your images to a photo sharing site. And equally as important, know if an image you want to use from a photo sharing site is fully protected by copyright or subject to some license that will permit you to use it. And if you can use it, know the terms of use. Copyright protection of images when it comes to use on the web is significant.

If your copyrighted image is used without permission you’re not required to send a cease and desist before using other protections from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Furthermore, by using a copyrighted image you risk your site being taken down without warning. It may not seem fair, but a copyright holder has some very powerful tools to prevent unauthorized use of their images.

For other articles about the legal implications of being online, check out my series on blog law and online rights.

Disclosure: While I am a lawyer, I am not offering legal advice. Posts on legal matters are intended to provide legal information and do not create an attorney/client relationship. This post is part of my Blog Law Series.

Sara

Blog Law – True Story: A Bigger Blogger Took My Recipe

Cookie Jar

Today I came across a series of tweets about a food blogger who was upset that another blogger took her photo and recipe, reproduced it on her site while providing a credit and link back in smaller text but also tagged the original blogger on Facebook.

Earlier in the week, Confessions of a Cookbook Queen posted a photo and recipe for Shamrock Mint Oreos. Although unclear because there is no copyright notice, I’m taking her word that the image is hers. As such, it is protected by copyright and any use of it on the other website is clearly a violation of copyright. The law does not require a copyright notice, but it does help to let people know you own it.

The issue actually is a bit more complicated regarding the photo because on the photo, Cookbook Queen uses a registered trademark, Oreo. Kraft is the owner of the registered trademark for the word Oreo as it pertains to cookies, and in fact that trademark has been registered since 1913. So we have a photo of homemade sandwich cookies in the style of what an Oreo would look like with the word Oreo on the photo. This brings up the issue of Trademark Infringement.

Is the original photo infringing on the right of Kraft’s exclusive use of the word Oreo as pertaining to this type of sandwich style cookie? The result is that even though Confessions of a Cookbook Queen may have a copyright on the photo in question, it does contain a potentially infringing use of a registered trademark. That, however, does not mean the other blog can take the copyrighted image, whether giving a link back or not.

Now, let’s get to the recipe part. I’ve discussed Recipe Copyright before and mentioned that ingredient lists are not protected by copyright. So let’s look at the directions. Are they sufficiently original to be considered substantial literary expression? There is some argument the directions could rise to that level, because there is a mention of specific dimensions and cutter. Although I don’t think it’s a strong position, there is some argument that there could be a copyright claim.

While I did not discuss this in my prior post, here we have an example of what could be a derivative work. In the United States, the Copyright Act defines “derivative work” in 17 U.S.C. § 101

A “derivative work” is a work based upon one or more pre-existing works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted. A work consisting of editorial revisions, annotations, elaborations, or other modifications which, as a whole, represent an original work of authorship, is a “derivative work”.

The original blog says she adapted the recipe. That would mean she used a pre-existing work. Is that pre-existing work subject to copyright? I don’t know about the specific recipe. Although, the cookbook from which it came certainly is.

If the prior recipe was not copyrightable, the new work would not be copyrightable to the extent the directions are the same or similar. To be copyrightable, a derivative work must be different enough from the original to be regarded as a “new work” or must contain a substantial amount of new material. Without seeing the original recipe, I can not say for certain but with only a few special aspects to the directions claiming copyright would be a very difficult argument to make.

In this particular instance, it is clear the copyright claim would be tenuous at best. And if the recipe is not subject to copyright, there is little if any protection against someone taking it and using. The issue of plagiarism doesn’t come in to play because the second blog actually credited the recipe both in the post and by tagging in Facebook. The credit was provided, as Cookbook Queen mentioned, although in a smaller font and not quite as obvious and maybe it could have been.

So what to do when there is likely no copyright claim for the recipe, nor was there plagiarism? There is still the issue of the copyright for the photo, for which that alone Cookbook Queen could ask that the image not be used without whatever attribution she wishes, if she so wishes to even permit use of her photo. It is, after all, her copyrighted image. The issue of the use of a trademark would be handled separately by the trademark holder.

When excluding the copyright issue of the photo, this situation likely comes down to ethics, standards and best practices. Obviously Cookbook Queen did not like her recipe being taken by this ‘bigger blogger’ and she asked that there be better attribution. It appears that bigger blogger was not happy and has since taken down the post and put up an explanation post. Bigger blogger likely did not appreciate getting an email from a ‘smaller blogger’ asking for better attribution.

This situation clearly demonstrates the differences of what the standards and best practices are among bloggers. When there is no law to lean on, all we have is our ethics and standards and any best practices that are out there. Clearly, bigger blogger and Cookbook Queen do not see eye to eye on these. But what it comes down to is that if you’re so in love with someone’s work, copyrighted or not, send your readers to them.

Your readers go to your blog because they love you and appreciate all that you share. They’re not going to abandon you. And if you’re a bigger blog, showcasing smaller bloggers is terrific. Why, though, use a smaller font to tell your readers how to find the original post? And why do a cut and paste job instead of just sending your readers to the other blog?

Maybe it’s not illegal to have taken Cookbook Queen’s recipe, but it’s definitely not cool!

What are your thoughts? Do you think ‘bigger blogger’ did anything wrong? Did Cookbook Queen over-react? How would you have handled this?

Disclosure: While I am a lawyer, I am not offering legal advice. Posts on legal matters are intended to provide legal information and do not create an attorney/client relationship. This post is part of my Blog Law Series.

Sara

What To Do When Your Online Content Is Copied

What to do when someone steal your online content

If you went to Blissdom and attended the Ignorance Is Not Bliss ‘Lawsome’ panel, then you had the fun of a sing-a-long. Sure, there were technical difficulties but everyone was a great sport and sang along to my new words to YMCA as they applied to the law and blogging. That all stemmed from a guest post I wrote about blog copying.

When I was in law school learning about copyright and intellectual property, I had a very heavy laptop computer. Copying music meant making a mixed tape if you had a dual cassette tape or if you were lucky enough to have a CD/Cassette tape player you could record your CD. But music copying wasn’t all that easy, although it was done. Copying off the internet was done, but only by ‘hackers’ or ‘bad guys’. The internet existed but not anything like we know it today.

In the years since, I’ve spent plenty of time online. My first website was created in 1993. By today’s standards a 6 month old child could probably do better that what I’d done. Over the past 14 years, I’ve learned about the legal rights that grow with each of these platforms. Remember Napster? It wasn’t a problem until artists realized they were getting ripped off. Gone were the days of recording music on a crappy cassette from the radio or your own boombox or relying on your friends to let you borrow their album. No longer are we relegated to having to use an electric typewriter or mimeograph machine to plagiarise.

Now, with the click of a mouse or touchpad anyone in any corner of the world can copy what you do and wholesale pawn it off as their own (plagiarism, at minimum). There isn’t much effort needed to steal not only words but also all the effort and ownership that goes with those words. And with enough know-how, people are creating bots and spiders to automate the copying process.

The written word has long been protected by copyright. And for well over 100 years, the US has recognized ownership of a person’s written work. Bloggers words are protected by copyright. And you don’t have to put a disclaimer on every page or any fancy wording. From the moment you hit publish, on works that are sufficiently original and meet the necessary requirements, you have a copyright. Plain and simple. Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s in the public domain.

It’s not a laughing matter either. Many bloggers, big and small, have been copied. Copying a small blogger may seem like no big deal, arguing that they don’t have many readers. But what one may define as a small or less influential blogger is irrelevant. Copyright does not have as a defense ‘but I’m bigger than them’ or ‘but I’m smaller and not many people read it’.

What do you do if your work has been copied? Besides wanting to find the person and flame them openly on twitter . Or write a ranting post and hope they copy it and look ever more foolish. Or get all your friends in social media to give them a digital beat down.

Following are steps you can take if

your blog or website has been copied

1. Verify the copying – scan for duplication using a service like Copyscape. I don’t suggest doing a right-click and cutting and pasting the post from their page. If it is an image, be absolutely sure that it is your image. Verifying is usually pretty easy.

2. Document the copying – screen cap the offending material, print it out, PDF it. Whatever you do, get a copy of the material and make sure it is date/time stamped so you can further authenticate if the situation escalates. The goal here is to have proof that their material came AFTER yours. Do not rely solely on posting times. There are ways to make it appear that a post was made prior to when it really was. Be aware of this as it may come up.

3. If this is the first time this person has copied your post or image, send a nice email. You can often get some form of contact information on their site. If it’s a legitimate site there will be a way to contact them, even if it’s an embedded  contact form. It’s better if you can get an actual email so you have record of the contact. But, if the only way is to use a built-in form then use that. You should also check out domain registrars to determine if there is an email contact available. Use a site such as Who Is to find out who owns a domain. What do you say? (A) Identify the post in question both on your site and theirs. (B) State you have a copyright and ask them to do whatever it is you want such as take it down, link back, edit, etc. (C) Give them at least 24 hours and verify that whatever you asked to be done is done (D) Tell them how to contact you.

4. For repeat offenders or those who did not respond to the previous nice email, you’ll need to escalate your response. This is where you get to send the “Cease and Desist” letter (or email). A “Cease and Desist” letter is a formal legal document telling the copyright violator to take down the offending material or risk further legal action. These SHOULD NOT be sent without getting legal advice, even if it’s a call to your brother’s neighbor’s son’s soccer coach who is an attorney. Get professional advice! The Cease and Desist letter/email should be copied to the domain registrar, host and the major search engines’ legal departments. Each of these entities will have something on their websites telling you where to direct legal notices.

5. If nice didn’t work and ‘guess you didn’t think I was serious’ didn’t get any result, the big guns come out. With this, GET A LAWYER or DMCA Specialist! You will need to file what is known as a DMCA Complaint. See Google DMCA Complaint information. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is part of the US Copyright laws and specifically addresses copyright as it applies to the internet. The penalties for misuse of the DMCA Complaint are significant, so if you’re at this point because your blog is being copied and it’s causing you irreparable harm and loss of income then spend a few (hundred) bucks and get someone to do this who knows what they are doing. If the offender is found to have violated your copyright, the rewards can be significant.

6. Copyright laws and the DMCA do not require you to take any interim steps to have your copyrighted works taken down from any site that is violating your copyright. I suggest sending an email and a Cease and Desist out of courtesy, not because it is required by law. I do not always send them, depending on the circumstances. Then again, I am a lawyer and I have experience with this. I am not suggesting you resort to going straight to a DMCA Complaint, nor am I saying that you have to wait it out.

Copyright infringement of blog material is becoming more and more prevalent. It bothers me both as a blogger and as a lawyer because the topics you can write on are seemingly endless. Diana Adams of both Bit Rebels and Ink Rebels has even done the work for you in her post 100 Sources of Blogging Inspiration.

Copying someone else’s material says a lot about you as a person. Not only does it diminish SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for both sites, it speaks volumes to PR professionals and other bloggers. I understand that mistakes happen. New bloggers don’t always know the rules. Seasoned bloggers may not realize you shouldn’t do something like this. But if you make a mistake, apologize and take down the post. Don’t get up in arms, badmouth the blogger you copied or do anything public that you will likely regret later. The blogoshpere will rally around the injured. Believe me on that one!

You may also be interested in reading:

Know Your Digital Rights – Blog Etiquette

Know Your Digital Rights – Recipe Copyright

For other articles about the legal implications of being online, check out my series on blog law and online rights.

Disclosure: While I am a lawyer, I am not offering legal advice. Posts on legal matters are intended to provide legal information and do not create an attorney/client relationship. This post is part of my Blog Law Series.

photo credit: Horia Varlan used under Creative Commons, text added by Sara Hawkins

Sara

Recipe Copyright

Recipe Copyright Laws

Speaking at Blissdom about the legal issues related to blogging showed me that there are many bloggers who have questions about copyright. It also made realize that there is a lot of erroneous information out there. So I am creating this little series called Know Your Digital Rights. Today I’ll cover some of the issues that came up with food bloggers.

How do I protect my recipe from being copied?

Creating a meal is one thing. Write it down step by step, ingredient by ingredient is painstaking, tedious and not to mention time consuming. So it’s no wonder that very few recipes are truly original. Most recipes have been adapted from family favorites, modified because you want to simplify the ingredients or method or re-created from a handfull of similar recipe that you’ve taken the best from each.

Once the recipe is perfected, tested, and photographed nine-hundred and thirty two times, you blog about it and post pictures and further bask in what surely will be loving and wonderful comments of your faithful readers. Then you hit publish and wait for the Google Alert to warn you that someone has just done their finest cut and paste job and posted your recipe on their blog. And because they are so genuinely nice they even gave you a ‘shout out’, which is how you know you’ve been loved on so nicely. Now what? (besides wanting to beat them with a wet homemade noodle)

Plagiarism? Copyright violation? Rogue food blogger? Whatever it is, you’re having none of it!

Plagiarism is not illegal. Unethical, sure. Preventable by law, no. Plagiarism is the unauthorized use of another’s work represented as your own. Being that there are no legal constructs for it with regard to your recipe you’re better off  focusing your efforts on other theories. Your post, to some degree, is protected by copyright but the recipe itself may not be. And if they gave you a ‘shout out’ or somehow attributed that recipe to you then they’re not claiming it as their own and plagiarism will not apply.

Copyright sounds like it should apply. And it may, if the ingredient list AND its instructions are lifted verbatim or “substantially”. In general, US Copyright applies to original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium. “Original” means that an author produced a work by his or her own intellectual effort instead of copying or modifying it from an existing work. “Fixed in a tangible medium” means that the work is able to be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated. Your blog is the necessary ‘tangible medium’.

Continue reading “Recipe Copyright”

Sara