Aug 09 2007
If you are serious;
- about blogging,
- about building credibility as a blogger,
- about increasing your blog karma, and
- about being perceived as a professional
then perhaps you should consider this.
There exists in Australia (and other countries in the world) two notions we should be aware of. One is that of Copyright Law, and the other of “plagiarism”.
I am not a lawyer, and have not had any specific legal training in this area. This is not meant to be an exhaustive post on the intricacies of Copyright Law, or legal advice, just some of the implications for bloggers. You should always seek expert legal advice.
Essentially it comes down to a fine line, that most of us (as bloggers) probably test regularly, but which we really should be much more conscious of.
A few fundamentals of Australian Copyright Law
- In Australia, copyright law is set out in the Copyright Act 1968.
- Copyright does not have to be registered, as soon as a work is created, it is protected by copyright (assuming “skill and effort” went in to creating it)
- Australian copyright owners are protected in most other countries
- Always look for permission about what you can and can’t do with material. Some websites may permit you to download, share or even reproduce the work, but unless this is expressly permitted in writing on the website, you should contact the website owner, or the original creator of the work, and seek permission in writing
- Even if there is permission, you need to be sure that it is the original copyright owner has authorised it being there
- Just because the author (or creator) is unknown, that doesn’t mean that copyright does not exist (you know those funny emails that go around that we all like to share :O )
- You do not need to display the © symbol for copyright to exist
- It’s important to keep in mind that an individual blog post or article is the “work”, not the whole of the website or even web page. Copying directly even a part of a work, can be deemed “substantial”. Substantial is defined as “important, distinctive or essential”
- It does seem to be permissible to reproduce a larger part of a work, provided it is for the purpose of criticism or review, and provided there is genuine analysis
- Photographs and images are subject to copyright too - be careful!
- Bloggers might think about including their own copyright statement outlining what can and can’t be done with their work.
What can be done if your copyright is infringed?
- Email the owner of the offending site. Jonathan Bailey has an excellent series of three posts (Plagiarism-Fighting Network Tools) outlining how to do just this
- Contact the ISP - as they can also be liable for permitting the copyright infringement
- If that doesn’t work, you might need to take legal action
Reference: Australia Copyright Council.
See also the Basics of Copyright by Miles Burke
Plagiarism is different to copyright. Plagiarism deals with
…taking the ideas of another person and passing them off as your own.
Even though you might not directly copy a chunk of work, even though you might paraphrase the content, you are still plagiarising and it is a form of content theft.
Wikipedia differentiates copyright infringement and plagiarism as such:
While both terms may apply to a particular act, they emphasize different aspects of the transgression. Copyright infringement is a violation of the rights of the copyright holder, when material is used without the copyright holder’s consent. On the other hand, plagiarism is concerned with the unearned increment to the plagiarizing author’s reputation.
To avoid plagiarism, it’s always best to make reference to your source (i.e. link to it) and use quotations where possible. If you find a post, video or website through another blog, I think it’s good karma if your cite the “middle blog”.
A Few Thoughts
There are lots of aggregating blogs and sites out there. It’s probably “within the guidelines” for these sites to present an excerpt from your post (usually the first few lines of the entry), with a link back to you, however frustrating it may be. Without original content on these sites, it’s unlikely that they’re ever going to amount to much. And they usually move on pretty quickly. But if you object, you can ask them to stop aggregating your posts.
What annoys me the most are the bloggers who should know better. The bloggers who are presenting themselves as “serious bloggers”. Not the scum sucking content scrapers (who’ll eventually get their day).
Having to assert yourself (and your copyright) is not a particularly pleasant task for many. Last week it happened to me, and I wasn’t sure how to handle it. The (Australian) blogger in question simply copied and pasted some of my content. This blogger did not even include a link as to where the information came from, so anybody arriving at the page would have no clue as to the original source.
I sent an email, explaining that I thought what the blogger had done was wrong. I did not demand removal, I left that to the bloggers discretion.
More than two days later the content of the post was replaced with a message saying it was removed because I asked for it to be removed as I wasn’t credited. This wasn’t accurate and I left a comment clarifying this. [Update 10/8: The blog post is now removed, along with a previous link to this site, and previous comment from me.]
Other Bloggers’ Advice
Lorelle on Wordpress has an excellent post entitled “What Do you Do When Someone Steals your Content”. I’d highly recommend that you read it. Some of it is not applicable in Australia, but provides a great overview of the process. She includes a sample letter, which may be a little on the stern side, but would certainly not leave the copyright infringer with any doubt about how you feel on the subject.
Lorelle makes a very valuable point
DO NOT SEEK REVENGE: Spamming, publicizing, or abusing the content thief will only bring suffering back to you. Stay professional. Defacing someone’s website, targeted spamming, and even publicizing the copyright violation can lead to criminal and legal action being taken against you. Even if legal action is not brought against you, your reputation may be ruined by such attacks. Be professional. There is a time and place for public outcries. The beginning of the process is not the time to go public.
It’s very easy to fall in to the temptation of “outing” the thief, but you need to manage the situation carefully.
Darren Rowse of ProBlogger also has a good post entitled “What to do When Someone Steals Your Blog’s Content - Blog Plagiarism“. At step 5 he suggests
Shame the suckers! - I guess that is what this post is about. Name and Shame them - expose them for the thieves that they truly are.
Has content theft happened to you? How did you resolve the issues?