A copyright question

Before a mod closes this because it is a legal question, note that this is not happening to me. It is a pure hypothetical based on what I’ve seen around the internet.

I see on the internet a ton of websites that just copy info from other sources and its not always from Wikipedia either. I am sure a lot of these are in violation of copyright, especially how there is almost no attribution. So let’s say I put some original research on the web and I find that websites have copy/pasted it. What are my options?

  1. I ask for attribution. I’ll let you use it if you put my name on it. I know that with trademarks that can be dangerous (protect it or lose it) so is there any loss of copyright rights if I allow the theft as long as they give me credit?

  2. Cease and desist. Can I do that myself or is it through a lawyer? What if there is no address for the website owner? Can I force the webhost to turn over the info seeing how there is a violation of copyright law going on?

  3. I know some violations of law carry a statutory penalty (like debt collection is $1000 per violation) while others are based on damages. Which one does copyright violations fall under?

Any other things I should know?

Copyright is control of the right to copy. As owner you have sole determination of how to apply that right. Nothing you do will affect your ownership at a future time.

The writers group SFWA had great success taking down material from pirate sites just by contacting the sites, without getting their lawyer involved. Most webhosts will respond if you can show you are the copyright owner. That’s voluntary, however. If they choose to be obstinate, a lawyer would have to get involved. I doubt even a lawyer would get very far in forcing disclosure of users in a copyright situation. Going to court would bankrupt you and they know it. In the real world, copyright takedowns happen every day and virtually all sites will comply. You should of course have your copyright registered before taking any legal action.

Both. Here’s the Copyright Law. Section 506 covers criminal penalties. It seems unlikely that your scenario would fall into those categories, but it’s at least possible.

I hate these hypotheticals. Real world cases depend entirely on the details Without knowing the details, the margin of error is around 100%. What I said is generally true, but the specifics may turn it around completely for an individual example.

Disclaimer: I am a lawyer and I practice in this field. However, I am not an american lawyer. This, of course is no legal advice.

Trademarks and copyright are two different things. In this case copyright applies. Any non authorized use of a work protected by copyright is illegal unless that use is allowed under fair use legislation. What constitutes fair use depends on each country legislation.
Let’s say that they upload their research to their website and that your research is protected. Clearly you have a case but, we need an american lawyer, in same cases a statue of limitation may apply.

In Argentina you could do it by yourself. The answer to your second question is more difficult. In the USA copyright legislation provides a mechanisms by which you can ask the webhost to eliminate the infringing material, if he does so he doesn’t break the law.
In Argentina we don’t have a similar law. In all cases the webhost is responsible too.

This one is also for an american lawyer.

Any other things I should know?

Your options in the US are limited by whether you registered your copyright. Most personal web pages don’t bother with this, which means that the infringed party can only sue for actual damages (very hard to prove) and the court won’t pay your attorney’s fees (as they can with a registered copyright). The court can order the offending web page to take down the material.

If your page has been registered (there is a fee), then you don’t have to prove actual damages to get a judgment; there are statutory damages for infringement. Also, the court can force the losing party to pay your attorney fees and court costs.

Technically, you can write to the website and ask them to take down the material; they will be obligated to. But they can drag their feet and force you to go to court (assuming you’ve registered it). Generally, infringers will try to avoid that step – it’s very hard for them to win (assuming they can’t claim fair use).

You can serve a DMCA notice to the website host and take it from there.

I do parody sites and have been routinely served DMCA notices but when I reply that they are protected use, I’ve never lost a case yet (knock wood).

But it would be impossible to not look at my sites as a parody and added to the fact they are non commercial I think helps me, because the companies won’t sue, 'cause I’m strictly small change and if they did sue and lost, it would open the field wide open.

I would look into how to serve a DMCA notice and go from there if you feel you’re being infringed on.

IANAL. In general, a letter sent by a lawyer has no more legal clout than one sent by you. People have lawyers write these type of letters because it says, “I have a lawyer and I know how to use it.” It just shows that you’re serious and litigation could be the next step.

How do web site operators deal with content that changes constantly? Do they have to reregister a copyright every time they make any change?

In fact, this will enhance your copyright claim. In 2 ways:

  • it’s still out there on the net, only now it has your name attached. Makes it harder for a 3rd person to claim he didn’t know who the original author was, or that he wanted credit for his work.
  • you’ve established a precedent. Only 1 other website given you credit, but still of some value.