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 fashionedâ€ 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 “publishâ€ 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 copyâ€ 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 “OKâ€ to take things from gardening blogs. They said, I quote, “These people put it out there and it is there for the takingâ€ 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. TheÂ rules say that Whois on a domain mustÂ be thruthfully filled outÂ 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)Â 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 proveÂ a DMCA violation?Â
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.