~Since 2004~
A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Copyright Lawsuit Shakedown

There's a legal storm brewing on the 'net. The owners of a large newspaper, through a partner firm, are running around suing small websites, forums, personal blogs, and a few larger sites too, over copyright infringement.  They don't care if it's a liberal site, conservative site, a non-profit site, a hobby site, or a blog that gets just a dozen views per day, the goal is to get money.

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.


My Bikers World said...

On one hand it is really a good method to struggle with the "copypasters" and spammers. On the other hand, if a person just liked the content and reposted it into their blog without any bad aim, why to beat out money from them? You know, it's quite a double-edged sword.

Electra Glide In Blue said...

I guess I got lucky,
I had a live feed web-cam code I “borrowed” from a newspaper website running on one of my sites for over two years. This year after tuning up some SEO on the site I moved ahead of the newspaper in the SERP’s with their web-cam and received a nice cease and desist email from the editor. I removed their code and asked permission for use, never heard from them again.

Oz said...

Very interesting. Something to watch out for. Thanks for the post.

FLHX_Dave said...

Man! I'm so screwed!....heh. Great information. I try to use only my own stuff but I have used a bunch of other folks photos and the like.

I guess I can afford to risk it though...simply because I have nothing! hahahahahaha...satire is protected so that is why I'm always horsing around making fun of crap. "Satire...the poor man's lawyer." I own pretty much nothing on paper so you can't squeeze blood out of a turnip.

OH CRAP! They could delete my blog off the internet!...that would suck! I better get my ducks in a row now!

Now I feel like I'm asking for it. Time to shut up.

Canajun said...

There will always be bottom feeders (lawyers are particularly prone to this type of behaviour) so you're absolutely right that the best defence is to be aware of potential infringements.

My understanding is that as long as you don't represent the content as your own, do give appropriate credit and links to original material, and don't use it to generate income, you'll be okay. But if a site specifically asks for payment to link or otherwise use their content, I just stay away. It's not worth the aggravation and risk. Besides, why would I want to give them free advertising with that attitude?

Mr. Motorcycle said...

I think we are all guilty to some extent, if we all follow the law to the letter.

Popular Posts

Search This Site

"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