Asociates1 writes regarding
Information on Copyrights
I am looking for information regarding the designers/illustrators rights in
regard to someone scanning and stealing their original art.
Can you show me the way? Thanks
What to Do Until the Lawyer Comes
The internet is a continual buffet of articles, photo collections, sound files and
content free for the taking. Your file(s) can turn up virtually anywhere and you'll
not even know. The Web also happen to house lots of detailed information on how to
protect yourself from this theft. (references below)
The Best Advice:
- Don't publish anything you're not willing to walk away from. (My first rule)
- Register your copyright. While it won't deter the real thief, it will inhibit
most law abiding citizens from stealing. At least we hope they'll contact you.
In the US and most other countries, you're covered by what's called "common
law" copyright automatically at the time you publish the work. You must register
it however if you want the copyright to stick. Why?
- it makes YOU the certified creator of the work.
- it gives you grounds to sue for statutory or punitive damages from infringements
if you so choose to do so. Sometimes you can win damages far higher than what you
suffered from the infringement -- and sometimes you will pay out the ying-yang for
legal fees and not win anything. It's your guess.
Discovering you've been ripped off
Of course it's very difficult to find and locate. Most crafty thieves will change
the document to ward off the cops. I recently served as an Expert Witness in a theft
case however where the ISP was so stupid, they simply copied over the pages making
no changes whatsoever. Duh.
Catching the thief...
Use the search engines like AltaVista and others to search for words on your pages
that you think will be fairly unique. (This is how we catch About.com every time!)
__ If there's a graphic, search for the specific NAME
of the graphic file. Chances are the thief didn't change the name to avoid fixing
__ Seed your pages with a "unique" word. In
other words invent a word then embed it in the html structure of the page. Some search
engines index comments. So if you comment your unique word, then the SE will find
it. You can also seed with unique strings of words. Most readers will read right
across them, but you'll know the exact string to search for thus turning up any pirates.
(Use the search engine's command for "string" ... like putting the string
in quotes (AltaVista) or parens.
Graphics are really tough. They can be changed and modified to the point that it's
even questionable whether it's an infringement or a "unique" new work.
Use the Title as mentioned before. Digital watermarks offer some degree of identify
ownership but won't help you search for them. Putting an obvious watermark in the
middle of a photo will help prevent use, but still -- a good Photoshop user can override
any watermark. Best policy is rule #1 above.
Caught the Thief? Now what?
So, how do you respond when you discover you've been ripped off?
__ People really believe that everything on the Web
is in the public domain. It's amazing to find who rips stuff off. When I find one
of these people I take one of two attacks:
- I chide them, telling them about copyright infringement, encouraging them to
take it down. I also offer to "fix" it or change it so it's custom for
their site... for a small fee of course.
- I encourage them to go ahead and use the art, but give me a credit, and link
back to the Design Center. In many cases, I'm happy to report, they do just that.
Off to Court?
Court is a drastic measure. First, you'll be called upon to prove that you've lost
income due the infringement. The costs can be staggering.
__ Sometimes in instances of commercial infringement,
you want to protect your property because of brand name, and lost sales. In these
cases you can usually justify the cost of an attorney.
__ If you're a professional writer or artist and your
work is being used for content in another site, you've probably got a good case.
But in order to win you're going to have to prove that the work was used in sufficient
method as to violate fair use laws, which are becoming more and more lenient.
__ In most cases your first line of attack will be to
gain payment, or perhaps even work from the offending party under the threat of litigation.
Maybe you'll win, maybe you'll lose.
__ When all is said and done, copyright infringement
is going to happen. It hurts your ego most. But keep in mind my methods of dealing
with the crooks, and maybe you'll get some links and traffic. If you're nice, and
don't make an enemy of the perp, ideally you'll get a check or maybe even an ongoing
Before some tips to remember, you can pull up this reference material in another
- *** Intellectual Property
Rights in the United States: Your Rights Under Common Law
- *** Basic Information about
U.S. Copyrights: What is a Copyright?
- *** Basic Information about
U.S. Copyrights: What is "Fair Use"?
- The Copyright Website brings you some insights into the issue, with real-life
examples that illustrate many Internet copyright issues. http://www.benedict.com/
- U.S. Copyright Office of course is the final word on copyright registration.
They even have downloadable forms for copyright available. http://lcweb.loc.gov/copyright/
- BitLaw, is a large reserve of information for non-lawyers, and gives you
a good start on some in-depth means at your disposal for protecting yourself. http://www.bitlaw.com/copyright/index.html
- The Fair Use Rule from Nolo Press explains a bit about "Fair Use".
You've heard me talk about NOLO before, they're an excellent resource for all kinds
of legal information from starting your own corporation to setting up a 501(c)(3)
non profit. http://www.nolo.com/encyclopedia/articles/pct/nn75.html