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Copyright, the DMCA, and "cut and paste"
Old 08-23-2012, 04:44 PM   #1
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Copyright, the DMCA, and "cut and paste"

Our Early Retirement Forum recently received what is known as a DMCA “takedown notice” that resulted in the removal of a post on the basis of alleged copyright infringement. After discussion among the moderators and administrators, we felt that it would be an opportune time to discuss the issue of “cut and paste”, copyright and the DMCA.

In the course of daily lives, we often come across interesting, provocative, humorous and/or informative articles that we would like to share with our fellow ER-Org members. We suspect, rightly in most cases, that the result will be a fun and interesting exchange of views with our fellow members. Unfortunately, we are sometimes tempted to “cut and paste” the entire article into our post when we want to share. And that, dear members, is a big no-no. Why? In a word, copyright.


When an author spends considerable time and effort to craft a witty or informative article, she wants to be able to keep others from stealing the fruit of her labors and claiming it as their own. The motive may be to protect her ability to profit from her work, to prevent use by those with whom she disagrees, or simply to have the world recognize her as the rightful author of such clever work. The motive is irrelevant; she has a copyright in the work and others may not publish it without her consent. She may grant an exclusive license to a magazine, for example. Or non-exclusive licenses to multiple magazines. In any case, if she has not granted you a license to publish it, you may not. This was the law long before the internet was ever invented, and it remains the law today.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”), enacted in 1998, was an effort to bring copyright law into the new Digital Age. It addressed a number of issues, such as circumventing anti-piracy technology, but for present purposes the main effect is that it added some truly draconian penalties for copyright violations. Those who are found to have published copyrighted materials on-line without permission can be hit with up to $25,000 in civil damages. In extreme cases, a criminal violation might be found, with a fine of up to $500,000 and five years in jail, or both, for a first offense. And, perhaps even more concerning, a court may issue an injunction shutting down a website that illegally publishes copyrighted material.

With passage of the DMCA, internet service providers and websites were deeply concerned about being held liable for copyright violations in materials posted by third parties, such as members of a forum. As a result of their lobbying, Congress also passed the Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act (OCILLA) in 1998. OCILLA provides a safe harbor for ISPs and websites to protect them from copyright infringement committed by their users or members. However, to take advantage of this safe harbor, the ISP or website must comply with the process laid out in the Act.

The way the process works is really quite simple. Someone who believes that their copyright has been infringed by a post on a website simply sends the site owner a letter demanding that the material be removed. This letter is known as a DMCA “takedown notice”. It must contain information prescribed in the Act, but assuming that requirement is met, the site owner must comply “expeditiously”. The term expeditious is not defined in the Act, but it is generally understood to require that steps be taken as soon as reasonably possible. Failure to act expeditiously can result in loss of the safe harbor and, in certain circumstances, could result in substantial liability and a shutdown of the site.

And that, esteemed fellow members, is the reason our Community Rules prohibit wholesale cut and paste of copyrighted articles, even very short items, and why the moderators remove such material when we find it. We really enjoy this forum and would not want to see it shut down for something that can be avoided. And we are sure all the membership feels the same way. So please, please, do not cut and paste entire articles, or even large chunks of them, unless you are the copyright holder.

One still may make “fair use” of small snippets of copyrighted materials. The best way to do that is to link to the article, block quote perhaps a sentence or paragraph from the article, and then provide your own commentary on the quoted material. Not only does this help comply with the law, it also starts better discussions by letting the rest of us know what you consider to be the most important part of the article and what your thoughts are on the matter. While it is easier to simply post a whole article with commentary limited, in essence, to “look what I found”, that often does not lead to the witty and interesting discussion we want. Spending a little extra time to do it right will not only aid in our compliance with the law, but will also make this an even better forum.
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Old 08-23-2012, 09:29 PM   #2
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Good to know. Thanks for the explanation.
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Old 08-24-2012, 12:00 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Gumby View Post
Our Early Retirement Forum recently received what is known as a DMCA “takedown notice” that resulted in the removal of a post on the basis of alleged copyright infringement.
I'm surprised that anyone would go to the effort of a takedown notice.

Especially on a forum with this much traffic.

Is there already something in the community rules about copyrights and excerpts?
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Old 08-24-2012, 12:29 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Nords View Post

Is there already something in the community rules about copyrights and excerpts?
There is:

Quote:
Do not post protected / copyrighted content:
Information copyrighted or owned by any individual or entity other than the member should not be posted without the consent of the owner. Copyrighted material includes images and text produced and owned by others. If such an event occurs, the individual posting the information shall be held solely responsible. You cannot legally post entire articles or news in the forum without permission from the copyright holder. Even if you attribute the article correctly it’s still copyright infringement. Under Fair Use provisions you can legally post a small abstract of an article - or perhaps the opening paragraph. The exception to this rule is press releases; they are meant for distribution and can be copied and distributed. If you are not sure if you can copy something then always err on the side of caution and simply post a link to the material.
I think most people know that they are not supposed to post entire news articles on the forum. The DMCA take down notice we received, however, related to material that the poster received by email from a family member (you know, the kind of humorous emails people send one another all the time). He was unaware that the material was copyright-protected. I think it's a mistake many of us could make. That's why we are taking the time to remind everyone that copying and pasting any type of published material should be done carefully.
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Old 08-24-2012, 05:25 AM   #5
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This shouldn't discourage people from the fair use posting of brief snippets that you describe. And people should always include at least a brief summary or description of an article so others can decide whether it is worth reading.
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Old 08-24-2012, 06:05 AM   #6
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This shouldn't discourage people from the fair use posting of brief snippets that you describe. And people should always include at least a brief summary or description of an article so others can decide whether it is worth reading.

Exactly.

A brief snippet or your own summary, along with a link to the article, is perfect.
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Old 08-24-2012, 07:08 AM   #7
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Thanks. I had this discussion with another Moderator about a year ago, good to see a discussion and definition. I'm sure no one here wants to violate an authors rights...
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Old 08-24-2012, 10:17 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by FIREd View Post
The DMCA take down notice we received, however, related to material that the poster received by email from a family member (you know, the kind of humorous emails people send one another all the time). He was unaware that the material was copyright-protected.
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Thanks. I had this discussion with another Moderator about a year ago, good to see a discussion and definition. I'm sure no one here wants to violate an authors rights...
I've seen this occasionally on blog comments, where the author gets free publicity about their writing.

But nooooooooo, they have to get all snippy about someone spreading the word that they write good stuff worth copying. They're confusing copyright violations with viral marketing.

And, yes, my blog posts are routinely scraped & published wholesale by at least a dozen spammers who are populating content for their own blogs. My hope is that they can help me reach all 1.4 million servicemembers and their millions of family members so that I don't have to do it all by myself. Besides, if I filed DMCA takedowns every time it happened, I'd be logging lots of overtime.
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Old 08-27-2012, 11:38 AM   #9
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And, yes, my blog posts are routinely scraped & published wholesale by at least a dozen spammers who are populating content for their own blogs. My hope is that they can help me reach all 1.4 million servicemembers and their millions of family members so that I don't have to do it all by myself. Besides, if I filed DMCA takedowns every time it happened, I'd be logging lots of overtime.

Despite the extra w*rk to file takedowns, you may want to to. Google dings search ranking if there is too much duplicate content. What's not clear is which site gets dinged or if both do.
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Old 08-28-2012, 10:20 PM   #10
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And, yes, my blog posts are routinely scraped & published wholesale by at least a dozen spammers who are populating content for their own blogs. My hope is that they can help me reach all 1.4 million servicemembers and their millions of family members so that I don't have to do it all by myself. Besides, if I filed DMCA takedowns every time it happened, I'd be logging lots of overtime.
If the people copying articles from your blog instead only quoted a snippet and then linked to your article you might actually reach even more folks (because of the pagerank boost to your site).
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Old 08-28-2012, 11:41 PM   #11
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Despite the extra w*rk to file takedowns, you may want to to. Google dings search ranking if there is too much duplicate content. What's not clear is which site gets dinged or if both do.
So far so good.

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If the people copying articles from your blog instead only quoted a snippet and then linked to your article you might actually reach even more folks (because of the pagerank boost to your site).
Maybe that's missing the point.

I don't see this project as building a giant funnel that guides millions of readers to one sole source of wisdom. Instead I'd rather that all of these sites simultaneously advertise the book, which can then be bought online.

The only true value of a blog is: revenue. Everything else (hits, pagerank, mozRank, pageviews, links, tweets, likes, times, bounce rates) is just a distracting proxy for discussion until there's actually revenue to talk about.
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Old 08-29-2012, 10:19 AM   #12
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One often unrealized aspect of copyright law is that if owners of a copyright fail to defend it vigorously, they can more or less lose their rights to it. So when some business goes after some charity, or some kid, over a fairly trivial infringement of copyright law it's not always fair to consider that business as some kind of monster. They are doing what the law *requires* them to do if they want to retain the copyright. If they "let it slide" now, they may not be able to stop a competitor from infringing on it in the future.
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Old 08-29-2012, 08:04 PM   #13
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So when some business goes after some charity, or some kid, over a fairly trivial infringement of copyright law it's not always fair to consider that business as some kind of monster. They are doing what the law *requires* them to do if they want to retain the copyright.
My point is that some copyright owners go completely overboard in their zest to protect their turf, to the point where they even miss a marketing opportunity or poison their own efforts.

If Jack Daniels can write the world's nicest letters to protect their copyright, then I think others can achieve the same standard:
Jack Daniel's Classy Book Cover Cease-And-Desist Letter For Patrick Wensink's 'Broken Piano For President'
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Old 08-29-2012, 08:16 PM   #14
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To be accurate, what you are both talking about is protecting trademarks, not copyright.
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