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!

Badlands Warning SignA while back, fellow Nü RVers those tech nomads informed us that a certain website was repurposing blog posts, not only from this site, but theirs and those of a number of other RVers.

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…

“freaky vegan cooking” site:liveworkdream.com

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.

So, if you want to ensure your legal rights to anything you publish, see a copyright attorney, consider assigning a creative commons license, or register your own copyright.

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.

WPMU DEV - The WordPress ExpertsI’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.

Recommended Reading

Infringement Nation: Copyright 2.0 and You

Patents Copyrights and Trademarks for Dummies

The Pocket Idiot’s Guide to Copyrights

Every Writer’s Guide to Copyright and Publishing Law: Third Edition

Law of the Web: A Field Guide to Internet Publishing

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10 Responses to “Beware of Blog Content Pirates”
  1. nina says:

    Talk about timing! I JUST ran into this with my own blog and was trying to figure out what to do. Thankfully the owners worked with me (it was an RV resort who had hired someone elso to run their blog). I also read somewhere else that one of the other things you can do to prevent this is use “limited RSS” feeds rather than full feeds. I haven’t decided if I’m going to do this yet (or even if I can), but wanted to throw it out there for you as an idea.
    Nina

    • Jim says:

      Thanks for pointing that out. With WordPress, this can be done from the Settings -> Reading tab (Full Text or Summary). We choose to include full posts in our feed, instead of excerpts so we don’t lose followers who never leave their news readers.

  2. This has, sadly, been a huge problem. Google tried to rectify a lot of it with their “Panda” update, but content farms sadly still make a lot of money off of others’ work.

    Sorry to hear you’re dealing with this. Whatever you do, don’t give the thieves link juice!

    • Jim says:

      Not dealing with this, just writing about how we dealt with it – sans link juice, hence n mention of he infringing website! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

  3. Wow, really?! I just don’t understand people who think it’s a good idea to steal from others…. how can it ever be justified? And personally, I really don’t think the way this guy explained himself was legit at all.

    So thanks for all the info and suggestions on how to search it out on the interwebz! :)

  4. Every now and then I get paranoid that this might be happening with our blog and hit up google for info. Luckily I haven’t found anything yet. Kudos to Technomadia for finding the copycats and thanks for the info on what to do if/when this happens to the rest of us. :)

  5. John Abela says:

    giggle, I did not think you would make my comment public ;)

    • Jim says:

      giggle

      Ditto. I actually considered not approving your comment, but it is helpful, and I didn’t want you to take it personally. I thought your first comment was funny because it’s our box and we knew all that! :-)

  6. John Abela says:

    Hey Guys,

    Before you invest money for legal fees here is what you can try… it might work, it might not, but it will only take 5-10 minutes of time.

    Figure out what company is hosting the offending website and submit a DMCA with the hosting company. Nearly all hosting companies will suspend the account of any website that they host if they receive a valid DMCA complaint.

    This has been a method I have used numerous times over the years for my Blog Service Provider website.

    So, from your domain name I can see that your ip address is: x.x.x.x

    From the ip address I can see that it resolves to: [your server]

    From there I would simply go to the /contact page and file a DMCA report. (if I were trying to file one against you for some reason)

    If contacting did not work I would take it up to the next level and contact [the host] as it looks like they are the folks that [you] uses as their [your] provider.

    Trust me, hosting companies are very quick to enforce DMCA violations… if they do not, they can get shut down. DMCA is a powerful thing. Utilize it.

    John

    • Jim says:

      Thanks for the feedback, John. Now everyone knows how to file a complaint against us! ;-)

      We didn’t need to seek further action. I did just notice however that I forgot to include this bit about what a typical cease and desist letter should demand:
      1. Notify the infringer that you claim the copyrights to your work.
      2. Demand that the infringer cease and desist from infringing your copyrights.
      3. Demand that the infringer pay you for your lost profits.
      4. Demand that the infringer give you an accounting of all profits derived from the infringed work.
      5. Demand that the infringer pay you for the profits derived by the infringer from the work.
      6. Notify the infringer that the infringer may be liable for your attorneys’ fees and statutory damages (only if you have a copyright registered before the infringement).
      7. Notify the infringer that you intend to send a notice of your claims to the ISP that hosts the infringing website and demand that the ISP take down the infringing content.
      8. Give the infringer a deadline to resolve the dispute to your satisfaction.
      9. Notify the infringer that you intend to take legal action if the dispute is not resolved to your satisfaction by the deadline.

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