I recently had an interesting exchange of thought with Catherine Chapman, owner of the “Tarot Elements” blog (www.tarotelements.com) , Tarot reader and writer. We were discussing the best ways to protect intellectual property on the Internet – both writing and images. My first thought was that this was not an unusual conversation. Both Catherine and I are Tarot professionals, with work up on the Internet. Her blog is a new and expanding one, including her own artwork and teachings, as well as reviews and other articles.
My thought was that almost everyone I know has had this happen at some point in time. My sister, a professional massage therapist, has an extensive Internet site. On more than one occasion she has had parts of her site (at one time – the entire site!) stolen and placed under someone else’s name. Interestingly eough, there is a name for having the use of all or part of your website used by someone else – it is called “website hijacking”. I have had parts of my site, and parts of my reviews/articles appear on other people’s sites, under their name. I was not happy!
Plagiarism is a given – it will happen. What we need to know is what to do about it. We have come a long ways from the time when a “link back” was sufficient. As artists and writers, we deserve full credit and compensation for our work. It should not be used without compensation to draw traffic to someone else’s site.
The following links will help you understand copyright law:
http://www.copyright.gov/legislation/dmca.pdf– US Copyright Office summary of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
http://www.gseis.ucla.edu/iclp/dmca1.htm – The full text of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
My feeling has always been that copyright information placed at the end of any article is the first step in establishing copy rights. I was very happy that in the midst of researching this article I found the following site, which validates my thoughts – http://www.bizhelp24.com/business-law/an-overview-of-copyright-protection.html . What this author suggests is the use of the copyright symbol ©, the year(s), and the author/artists name. IMHO, it does not hurt to add something to the effect of “This information is not to be used in any form, online or off, without the express permission of the author/artist.”
The following site reiterates the steps that I would take to address any of my work that had been plagiarized – http://www.ehow.com/how_4919899_report-plagarism.html . The steps are basically: (1) contact the owner of the site with the plagiarized material and ask them to take it down. (2) If that fails, notify the site host that this site contains plagiarized material. (3) Notify any advertisers on the offending site that the site contains plagiarized material. (4) Notify Google and file a complaint. Note – There is a specific procedure for this – http://www.google.com/dmca.html. Another great site on taking action on copyright infringement is – http://www.seologic.com/faq/copyright.php (Step by step actions to take with copyright or trademark infringements.)
Note that no lawyers are involved (the little people of the world cannot afford a lawyer, and those who deliberately steal from a “Mom and Pop” site know that. There are other ways to address the issue, thanks to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Following up on content piracy is not time consuming, and it can (and should!) be done by everyone who has content on the Internet.
How can you detect piracy in the first place? Sometimes people will notify you that your work is being published where it should not be. If you do a Google on yourself at routine intervals, you can also catch material that has been pirated. Also, putting specific phrases from your material in the Google search engine may bring up some surprising results! The following sites are also good places to reference checking on copyright infringement:
http://www.keytlaw.com/Copyrights/cheese.htm – This is a lawyer written site on website copyright infringement.
http://www.copyscape.com – Search for copies of your page on the net.
http://plagiarismanalyzer.org/blog/2009/02/19/copyright-infringement-bad-things-about-it – Plagiarism Analyzer.
The following links are to sites where content piracy can be reported:
http://www.siia.net/piracy/report/report.asp – Online content and software issues.
http://lorelle.wordpress.com/2008/02/04/content-theft-and-wordpress – How to deal with theft from WordPress authors.
http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap5.html – Copyright law and remedies in the US.
http://www.google.com/dmca.html – Google Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
I would also like to share the following articles on copyright – some of which surprised me (such as the copyright on quilts):
http://www.lostquilt.com/CopyrightInfringement.php – Copyright for quilts.
http://www.bruceclay.com/ethics/webthief.htm – Response to stolen web pages, basic copyright information.
http://www.templetons.com/brad/copymyths.html – 10 myths about copyright explained.
http://plagiarismanalyzer.org/blog/2009/02/19/copyright-infringement-bad-things-about-it – Blogs on plagiarism.
http://sacred-texts.com/tarot/faq.htm – Rider-Waite-Smith copyright FAQ.
http://home.comcast.net/~vilex/copyright.html – Holly Volley’s Rider-Waite page on copyright issues for the “Rider-Waite Tarot”.
http://www.tarotforum.net/showthread.php?t=75304 – Aeclectic Tarot forum for copyright issues for collage artists.
http://www.tarotgarden.com/faq.html – Tarot Garden FAQ on copyright/intellectual property issues.
http://mason.gmu.edu/~montecin/copyright-internet.htm – Copyright on the Internet.
http://mason.gmu.edu/~montecin/cpyrght.htm – Copyright resources.
http://www.bizhelp24.com/business-law/an-overview-of-copyright-protection.html – Overview of copyright protection.
http://www.bizhelp24.com/business-law/copyright-protection-online.html – Copyright protection online.
Protecting images on the Internet:
http://www.mediacollege.com/internet/security/protect-images – Steps to take to protect images.
http://news.softpedia.com/news/Secure-Your-Web-Images-65431.shtml – Securing web images.
What is clear is that plagiarism is not an unusual activity. Sometimes the person/people involved are naïve – they simply do not understand the rules of the road. Sometimes the parties involved do understand that what they are doing is wrong, but they figure that if. when they are caught, they will take the offending material down, and all will be well. Then there are those that rip off material deliberately to benefit themselves in some fashion.
It is not up to us to judge. All we need to do is take the small steps, and hope for enforcement. In most instances the material will be taken down. If it is not, we have to make the decision on whether we want to take legal action or not. This is a final step, and an expensive one. If we do the small things consistently to protect our intellectual rights, and if we make it a practice to check on a consistent basis for material that has been ripped off, we are doing what we need to do.
Addendum: Catherine very thoughtfully included my blog on her site Tarot Elements. Jan, one of her site visitors, left a thoughtful comment on her own copyright experience, as well as a link to a site that I would like to share – Fair Share. You can register with this site to check the Internet for improper use of your own material. Thank you, Jan!
© October 2009 Bonnie Cehovet