Do You Know Your Garden Blogging Rights: Copyright Infringment

Has your gardening blog ever been copied without your permission? I would be willing to bet that, on some level, it has. Unfortunately, a lot of the “old fashioned” writers or the general public do not understand that just because a piece of work is published on a website does not mean that these words and pictures are available for public reuse. What this sad fact means is that someone is probably stealing your hard blogging work.

Knowing Your Garden Blogging Rights
You may have noticed that I have a copyright notice at the bottom of my permalink pages that reads that my work is protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (or DMCA for short). The DMCA was put in place during the Clinton era in the US to protect works produced in digital format i.e. The Internet. What this means is that the second you click on that “publish” button, your posts and pictures are copyrighted. No one is allowed to copy them without your permission.

Stopping the Stupid People
75% of copyright infringement happens because people are unaware of the law. The law says if you publish it, you own it. But there are some people who think that unless you say “Don’t copy” this means they can. I had this come slapping into my face after reading a Garden Rant post where professional gardening writers were quoted to have said that it was “OK” to take things from gardening blogs. They said, I quote, “These people put it out there and it is there for the taking” Bullshit. These are just stupid people.

Your best bet to stop stupid people is to post a copyright notice on your pages somewhere. If you are uncertain what to write, feel free to copy mine (see, I gave permission) or, if you do wish to share some, you can get a Creative Commons License widget to add to your site. It is like putting a no trespassing sign on private property, but sometimes the obvious is not apparent to stupid people.

Stopping the other 25%
Even more unfortunate than stupid people are greedy people. You may or may not know this, but people can make money from copying your work. Some awful people will copy your work just for that purpose. For those people, you need to get a little tougher. First, send them a nice friendly email letting them know they are copying your work and it is protected under DMCA and they need to take it down TOMORROW. If an email address is not available on their site, you can look it up from their whois for the domain. If that email address comes back as being incorrect, report the domain to InterNIC. The rules say that Whois on a domain must be thruthfully filled out and a domain can be taken away from an owner if the whois is falsified (i.e. they don’t use a real email address)

If the copyright infringer does not remove the material (or worse, gets nasty with you), than it is time to get tough. The really cool thing about DMCA is that it says that anyone who assists someone in copying copyrighted material is also liable for the infringement. This means hosting companies, search engines and advertisers on the site can also be held liable. Needless to say, these companies will drop a website copying other websites like a hot potato. Send DMCA notices (i.e. this site is copying me) to the website’s hosting company, Google, Yahoo, MSN and any advertiser you see listed on the site. State that you are declaring that the other site is in violation of DMCA and that you are requesting that the violating site be dropped immediatly from any relationship with the company you are speaking with.   Be polite though.   Most companies are more than happy to drop a creep.   If nothing else, you will make things difficult for the copycat.

But what if they are doing it offline?
Writing to the publisher of the work will fix this quickly. They do not want to be associated with a plagiarizer either.   It is one of those sacred journalism laws.

When all else fails
Sometimes, you can take all of these steps and it doesn’t stop the person who is copying your site.   You do have the law on your side. If you really want to take it that far, you can talk to a lawyer who specializes in Internet Law who may be able to assist you in suing them.

Is someone copying me?
So how do you find out if someone is copying you? One easy way is to randomly check with Copyscape. This is a service that will compare pages to see how similar they are.

Offline, it is harder. Chances are that you will only find these copycats by chance. But the point is, if you see that your posts or pictures are being used in a way that you did not give permission for, you have rights. Don’t be afraid to employ them.

How do I prove a DMCA violation? 
Take dated screenshots (Hit print screen on your keyboard and paste into Word or a graphics program) of your site and the offending site. Also visit the Wayback Machine and see if there is a record for the way your post looked on the day you posted it. The Wayback Machine is routinly used in DMCA cases to prove copyright infringement online.

But Remember Fair Use
Before you go to topple someone who used a snippet from your blog, you do need to be aware of fair use laws. These are laws that make it okay to use small pieces of a work to build upon them, like if they wanted to comment on, cite or parody a work. Make sure that your work is not being used in a fair use way before you do too much.

Now you know a little more about your gardening blog rights. Use them to protect your work because your work deserves to be protected.   For more information on your rights as a web publisher, visit ChillingEffects.org.

16 thoughts on “Do You Know Your Garden Blogging Rights: Copyright Infringment
  1. I publish under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial 3.0 License and it gives me some peace of mind. I don’t think I’m a particularly good writer or photographer, but my site statistics are filled with Google searches for particular images and subjects and I’m assuming at least 10% of those are lazy writers looking for free stuff.

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  2. Elaine on

    Thank you for this excellent guidance on ethical blogging.

    I recently read this advice on Rule the Web http://www.ruletheweb.net/, which I found helpful for me as a blogger who frequently quotes others (who know a lot more than I do about gardening and many other topics):

    “Question of the Day

    * Jeff asks, “What if you find something indirectly through another Web site (like Boing Boing or Neatorama)? Do you credit the original site, the one where you actually found the content, or both?”

    August 10, 2007

    Say I’m reading Neatorama and I come across a post about a news article about a man who dressed up as a tree to rob a bank. I would link to the online newspaper article, and credit Neatorama as the source of my discovery.”

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  3. And by the same token, it would be very nice if bloggers would refrain from posting entire newspaper articles and other people’s images they’ve found through google without accredation or permission. This is very, vey widespread too. Works both ways.

    I have had my entire blog copied–and couldn’t figure out how to contact the copier–the IP number /whois led nowhere. I think they stoppd though.

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  4. thanks for posting this, i understand plagiarism but the same guidelines through blogging are not always clear to me.

    for example, if i find a blog i like often i will write about it on my blog linking to said blog.

    i never write something that i got from someone else giving credit to myself. i always trackback to the original blog.

    which brings me to wondering if that is a form of copyright infringement? to write about other bloggers i admire or their articles that i admire? the lines aren’t clear, so any answer would be much appreciated.

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  5. Hanna on

    carol & Kylee – I am glad it was helpful.

    steven – It is cool that you share. I have people lift my pictures alot. I don’t worry much about it unless they are hotlinking.

    bug_girl – Thanks for the link. I have not started reading Loreele, but Kathy over at Cold Climate Gardening also recommended her, so perhaps I will start. That was a good article. 90% of the time, when your blog is copied, it is the feed that is to blame. I know people want to make things easy for their readers to read a post in their RSS aggregator, but unfortunatly, it also makes it easy for rip off artists. That is part of the reason why I only use a summary in my feeds. I believe WordPress by default displays the full article, making WordPress users more vulnerable to copying.

    Elaine – That is the correct thing to do, reference both. And normally a refrence in blogging is a link back (for everyone else reading this who may not know).

    eliz – You are absolutly right. If anyone is ever looking for images, you should use the ones from the sites were people post them for free use. http://www.sxc.hu/ & http://www.morguefile.com/ are two excellent sources for freely shared images.

    If you see someone copying your blog wholesale again and you can’t contact them, follow the steps I outlined. It stops the money flowing in (no traffic, no hosting, no advertisers = no money) which takes away their reason to copy you.

    piglet – As long as you are not copying word for word, you are fine. Linking back is a fully acceptable (and appreciated) practice. You are allowed to talk all you want about other sites and what you found there, just use your own words (an maybe a few short fair use quotes with links) to do so.

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  6. Hanna I was most interested in this post! I take much pride in the photos and images that I post and would be peeved knowing that someone copies and benefits financially!
    I am still do NOT know my way around the PC without the help of my techy friend so I shall take your advice and place some sort of protection on my site. As I shake my head..tsk tsk
    Thank you for caring and putting this info our for us!Also thank you for listing me in your garden blog role! Happy gardening NG

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  7. thanks for the education hanna, there is SO MUCH about this i do not know. i try to do my best to be considerate and respectful of others in person and on line.

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  8. I have a journalism background and feel strongly about plagerism, which I agree is rampant on the web. I think folks think the copyint from web posts is different somehow than copying from print.
    Thanks so much for this post. I’ve learned so much, and have already found a couple of instances of copying by checking with Copyscape. I’m going to bite the bullet and pay for their premium service. I’ve always used the Creative Commons widget, but will now check into DMCA. I’ve always welcomed links and quotes with attribution, but I’m like you–if you want to copy wholesale, just ask!
    Thanks again,
    Aiyana

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  9. Thank you for the detailed post, Hanna – a great deal of my blog has been swiped a couple of times, turning up under fake names.I even found a blog that had stolen and reused the post where I complained about blog copying! Sometimes friends helped me figure out how to report it – sometimes it seemed impossible.

    Your stuck-as-a-snapdragon friend,
    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

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  10. Hanna on

    No Rain & Annie – Isn’t it just terrible? People just take what they please and never think about the damage they do.

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  11. I didn’t realise it was possible to find out if your blog posts/photographs have been used without attribution or permission. Thanks for the info… I am going to check out Canadian copyright laws. I imagine that they are much the same now.

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  12. Great post. It is a really annoying problem that I’ve suffered many times.

    Another way that you find if others have been copying your material is to do a Google search for one or two sentences from an article, placed in quotes. I usually use sentences from the second paragraph as I’ve found lots of spam sites that copy only the first paragraph and that’s usually not worth bothering with and could, I suppose, be considered “fair use.” I think many bloggers will be surprised at what they find.

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  13. Thank you, thank you for this information. I didn’t realize or know much of this and I appreciate the way you have explained it all.

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