Thursday, September 30, 2010
Copyright Lawsuit Shakedown
Generally, properly licensing an article or photo from another site might cost $25 or so, much more if it's a bigger site with special content or a unique photo and the material is to be used commercially.
From private bloggers, non-profit groups, and other small fry the newspaper is asking as much as $150,000 in "damages" for minor articles, sometimes for copying as few as five sentences. It seems that "copyright infringement" has being used like brass knuckles or a cudgel to get money from little people who cannot afford to defend themselves in Federal Court over a relatively minor matter.
What am I talking about? Read the article here on the Las Vegas Sun newspaper website and peruse their archives on the subject. If you keep a blog or run a website and like to copy and paste info from one website to another it would be good to inform yourself of what some bottom feeding lawyers are doing with US copyright law in the pursuit of profits, as opposed to justice.
On a more personal note, I understand the need to protect original content from overt copying. It takes time and money to create original text and photos, even for an small blog like this one. Not long ago I found seven full blog entries from 40on2 re-posted on a commercial website. I was not a happy blogger! I sent the site owner a polite e-mail and the entries disappeared the next day and I got an apology. I wasn't after money, I just want my work to be my own. Since I don't profit from 40on2 no one else should either! I know some of what I post here gets copied elsewhere on the 'net and I'm ok with that if it's only a bit of a post or a picture and I'm given a link back and credit. But taking whole blog entries was excessive.
I wonder what will happen in the long term, if rapacious lawyers in pursuit of money, not justice, succeed in beating down scores of small websites. It cannot help but change how the Internet works and how information is shared, or worse, not shared.
In the long term I think freedom of conversation and information will prevail but in the mean time ordinary people are being damaged financially so rich people can get richer. Gee, what a surprise.
Oct 3 Addendum: And what happens when popular motorcycle magazines opt for the heavy handed technique in dealing with bike blogs or websites that "borrow" content? Worse, perhaps we will one day see TV commercials for shady lawyers asking "Do you own a blog or website? Has your content been used without your permission? Don't be cheated by others, call 1-800-SUE-4MNY. Just pay a $1500 fee and we'll sue everyone who's ever quoted your blog hoping to get a couple of thousand dollars from each of them! You'll be rich!" Nice. Let's hope a court or Congress fixes this mess before it gets further out of hand.
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"When my mood gets too hot and I find myself wandering beyond control I pull out my motor-bike and hurl it top-speed through these unfit roads for hour after hour." - T.E. Lawrence
An Important reminder from the past:
"I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." - James Madison