A Tale of two Copyright Infringements

Together, we can stop it.

CopyrightThe other day, while trying in vain to catch up with missed tweets by the people I follow on Twitter, I noticed that two of my Twitter friends were dealing with copyright-related issues. Since then, both issues were resolved. I believe that part of the reason for the speedy resolution of these problems was involvement by the Twitter community.

Content Theft

The first case came to light when one of my Twitter friends, @anntorrence, complained that she had not gotten a response from the blogger who used one of her articles on his site. The link to the article in question told the rest of the story. Ann had written a great tips piece about preparing for a cold-weather photowalk. The article was originally published on Ann’s blog, Pixel Remix: the Ann-alog. Later, it was picked up with her permission on Photowalking Utah. The same article was picked up without her permission by a new photowalking Web site that was obviously anxious to build content and Google juice.

Ann’s article is copyrighted — as is most content on the Web. Her obvious distress over the piece being used without her permission bothered me. After all, I earn my living as a writer and have seen my own content stolen again and again. In my case, it often affects my livelihood by distributing content that I normally receive royalties for. But that doesn’t mean that content theft is any less wrong when it’s from a blog or other free source.

I went to the Web site guilty of the theft and posted a comment there. I also wrote to the owner of the site. I was horrified not only to see the theft, but because that site was one of the few that I actually paid to advertise my helicopter business on. I was not interested in supporting a site that was stealing content. If they stole from Ann, who else had they stolen from? How much of the content was original or reused with permission? (Needless to say, I pulled my ad immediately.)

The owner of the site made the fatal error of replying to me in Twitter. He defended his actions by saying that he “gives credit when due.” He was obviously clueless about copyright law — as most people incapable of creating their own content appear to be. He seemed to think that if it was on the Web, it was free for use anywhere, as long as he put a byline for the original author. He appeared to think he was being generous by including a link back to the article — not the original, but the site he stole it from.

An @reply argument ensued, with me trying to educate him and him responding arrogantly. He tried to continue the argument in e-mail. After I left my computer (and Twitterrific), he was apparently blasted by other Twitter users who got in on the discussion with their own @replies.

Ann has since gotten satisfaction for the situation — her article has been removed. Unfortunately, the owner of the site still doesn’t get it. He has written a post apologizing for not giving proper links back to original articles. He evidently does not understand that he needs permission to reuse copyrighted work.

I wonder what Scott Kelby will say when he sees his work used on the offender’s site. Personally, I hope he sues the site owner’s sorry ass.

I would urge people to boycott the site, but that might send new visitors there just to check it out. Instead, I’ll just urge people not to frequent sites that steal content. If you think a blog’s post contains content used without permission, don’t be afraid to comment about it.

Removing Copyright Notices

The second case was far more blatant. Some idiot had written a blog post about how to remove copyright notices from photos and other images found on the Web. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he used someone else’s copyrighted image for his example. That someone else was @PattyHankins, one of my Twitter friends.

Patty mentioned the problem in Twitter and I went to investigate. The post in question was a typical hacker/pirate post with instructions for removing copyright notices that were part of a photo. Patty’s photo appeared numerous times in the step-by-step instructions. After the first time, the author of the post made a comment like, “I don’t know who Patty Hankins is, but nice picture.” Extremely obnoxious.

I posted a comment to the post. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but it clearly pointed out that the author of the post and site was violating Patty’s copyright. Evidently, many other Twitter users did the same thing. So when Patty sent his ISP a DMCA notice, she got a quick response. The photo was removed within four hours.

Patty referred me to “Using the DMCA Takedown Notice to Battle Copyright Infringement” on NatureScapes.net for what she says is the most effective sample DMCA letter she’s ever used.

Again, I believe that one of the reasons Patty had a relatively easy time of getting the photo off the infringer’s Web site was the outpouring of comments by outraged Twitter users.

For More Information…

If this post interests you, you might be interested in the following links.

And please do use the Comments link or form to add your thoughts about this matter. If you are one of the offending bloggers, however, don’t waste your time. My blog is not your soapbox.

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3 thoughts on “A Tale of two Copyright Infringements

  1. Forgive my tardiness responding, I’m still away from home and surfing the ultra-slow Web right now. An educational experience but otherwise a headache.

    Thank you for posting this and for dropping me a line previously about the PhotoWalking case. I think it illustrates some of the critical problems with copyright on the Web right now. Copyright, for better or worse, is a permission-based economy, meaning that you have to ask and obtain permission before use. Many feel that if they just “give credit” and post away that they are covered until someone complains. That only works for hosts that are having their users post content without their knowledge.

    Regardless, many people forget that copyright infringement is not largely related to whether credit is given or not, plagiarism is a different accusation altogether and not that’s actually a part of copyright law, but that it is the act of copying that sets up the infringement accusations.

    Regarding the second case, I looked at the DMCA notice and it looks good to me too. I’ve been considering some tweaks to my notices but haven’t found anyone who has had it rejected. However, mine are targeted more toward written works and that one more toward images, so, it might work better for photographers. I’d love to hear your thoughts on that when you get the time.

    On that note, thank you for everything that you do in this field and for the link!

What do you think?