I read a post at a discussion forum—the author found a Web site had copied her content verbatim. She contacted the owner of the site, who basically told her to shove it—there was nothing she could do. The site owner did remove the content, however. In August, I wrote a column about a lawsuit filed by an author who took issue with a bad review of his book. The reviewer didn’t just bash the book; illustrations from the work were reproduced. The author had provided the book, so the case isn’t black and white.
In a perfect world, no one would lift your content without asking. But people do. One reason I added the ‘Copyscape’ banner to both my sites involves providing notice that I do check for copied content. Copyscape works beautifully to this end.
Technically, you don’t have to officially register a work to protect it. The U.S. Copyright Office Web site notes:
No publication or registration or other action in the Copyright Office is required to secure copyright. (See following note.) There are, however, certain definite advantages to registration.
Here’s the note referenced above:
Copyright is secured automatically when the work is created, and a work is “created” when it is fixed in a copy or phonorecord for the first time.
It is a good idea when you post to your blog or Web site to add a copyright notice, and it’s an even better idea to file the forms to protect your work.
And if you have your eye on sharp content written by another, ask before you lift. Chances are if you run a quality site, you’ll receive permission unless you’re asking a large commercial concern. And always, if you’re given permission, be mannerly and include a link to the site where the work was first featured.
There’s an excellent site explaining the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, organized by the Association of Research Libraries. This government act offers some protection for your Web content, and restricts use of your content to fair use guidelines, including the amount of content in relation to the whole work. Fine to lift a line or two when you’re reviewing a book or poem. Not so fine to lift the whole item.
Meanwhile, you can drop your URL in at Copyscape to see if your work is being used without your knowledge.