Message boards and copyright protection

It has recently come to my attention that in the forum of a certain important website (belonging to a big television channel) various posters have been reproducing material (text and photos) from our websites. I have just finished sending them a letter requesting that they inmediately remove the material.

I have to admit that belonging to this message board has given me a renewed respect for authors’ rights. That and the fact that I expend countless hours a week producing material for our site, not to mention the fact that I drag a camera everywhere I go hoping to catch some images that I can later use in our sites. We also have a forum, and we have a sticky thread explaining to our posters what we accept and what not. So far we haven’t received any complains from other sites. Hopefully it will remain so.

The debate? Yeah, I am getting there.

The SDMB’s stand on copyright seem unique from my point of view. Unique in the sense that the strict compliance to copyright laws seem enforced more sternly than in other sites. Kudos to the people in charge. Other message boards I visit seemingly try just as hard with varied results.

This site I am referring to in the first sentence is a repeat and constant violator (the posters are) and I wonder how much respect they have for copyright laws when just ONE poster posts hundreds of pictures and dozens of recipes. Doesn’t that ring a bell? They don’t seem to be paying much attention, more like ‘we don’t care, but if someone threatens to sue we’ll pay attention’.

Should they be responsible for the actions of their posters, in light of the constant problem and the apparent innattention of the moderators/webmasters/whatever? I am sick and tired of chasing people (magazines, restaurants and sites) that use our material without permission and since they are the big guy I am inclined to throw the book at them even if it costs me an arm, a leg and my bad kidney. What say you?

That belong to us.

And I previewed :smack:

Boards that are not moderated have wider legal leaway, since there is no oversight. Anyone can post anything they want, and such a Board says, “Sue the poster, not us, we didn’t do anything.” It’s like, if you photocopy someone’s book and nail it on a tree, it’s not the tree that bears liability.

Since the Straight Dope Message Boards are moderated, we’re expected to stop infractions.

Furthermore, Cecil himself (and the CHICAGO READER) get pretty irked when someone steals from them, and so we do unto others as we hope they will do unto us.

Is that an opinion or is there a legal precedent/reasoning there? Really curious.

I’ve been an Admin of a forum that had a couple thousand members and we did have moderators. People would post copyrighted stuff, and most of the time it’d slip by the limited number of people there with any authority.

We’ve never been sued, never been threatened. If a copyright holder does see their stuff on the site and it’s not allowed, we take it down. Hell, sometimes that’s the only way we know something’s copyrighted.

There is a 99.999% chance that I will **not ** sue them. Hell with the battery of lawyer that they probably employ they will probably find a way to sue *me * first. I was just a bit too angry when I posted that.

With that out of the way, let me tell you something. I had never been to that site. It came to my attention because another webmaster, who was also a victim, sent me an email warning me of the situation. She also told me that she is not the first and that in fact it is a very common occurrence on that MB. It is a hugely popular MB, probably very hard to moderate, but I still have the feeling that they don’t really care much.


It seems you wish to keep the name of the offending message board off this one. Perhaps you might email me a link? I’m at

I would appreciate the chance to look for myself.

As I said, this people are big. They have more lawyers that you can swing a cat at, I am sure that should they wish to do that they can sue me. I am weary of posting their name here for that reason. I will email you a sample of what I am talking about.

Are they hotlinking your graphics? If so, you can replace the hotlinked graphics with graphics that say, “This image is stolen by copyright violators and bandwidth thieves.” If you want to go to the trouble. I have done this many times. Sometimes, if the thief is small potatoes, I just let the thread where they post the stolen graphic die and forget about it. I’ve also gotten in the habit of putting my copyright statement and URL on larger graphics, so at least when it’s stolen, people know where it comes from.

The fact is, people don’t care if they are stealing. They really feel like they deserve to take anything that strikes their fancy. A lot of them get downright snippy or offended when they discover that the graphic that they “borrowed” all of a sudden is replaced by a graphic that is telling everyone what a thief they are. :smiley: They say stuff like “The Internet is about the free exchange of ideas, so I can take whatever I want” or whatever. The sense of entitlement is astonishing. They do it when there are strict and specific copyright statements on the page where they found the graphic to steal. They just don’t care.

I once witnessed an absolutely amazing debate on a rather large gaming site, because some staff members were stealing artists’ artwork and making them into “avatars” for everyone. When the artists found out and demanded that their artworks not be used (I mean, the artist wasn’t given credit, nothing), the gamers got all huffy, claimed that they had every right, were just as nasty and pouty as they could be. Finally the avatars were all taken down (and there were thousands of them), and the staff who worked at stealing all of them still felt like they were “victims” because those mean old artists didn’t like their work stolen.

I’m telling you, people are amazingly clueless and arrogant about this sort of thing.

May I use that? :slight_smile: Serious.

Some people ARE clueless. As a mod in another board I had explained people that just because is on the net doesn’t mean it’s free for the taking. Some people are malicious. The latter are the worse; they and spammers will surely have their own special hell.

Of course you could also replace the images they hotlink with an impossibly large file, the page would never upload. :slight_smile:

Mighty Girl, yes, by all means, make graphics with that statement on there!

I also got an idea from another Doper, and made a graphic (with a hot pink background) that said: “NAMBLA: I molest children and steal bandwidth.” That was amusing.

Yes, putting up huuuuuge graphics is also good, or, putting up graphics that are really, REALLY wide (like 2,000-3,000 pixels wide) and watch as the graphics mess up the formatting of the page. :wink:

Extra points if you make the graphics like 3,000 pixels wide, and 1 pixel tall, and invisible. They won’t know what’s going on. :smiley:

So long no one has mentioned linking to goatse.

What’s the point of using huge graphics? They will make your bandwidth problems even worse. :confused:

Only use the big graphics for the short term, and if you’ve got plenty of bandwidth to spare. Otherwise, the really really wide graphics are nice. (Or else the NAMBLA graphic. :D)

That’s OK. I don’t want to cause any legal hassles for you. Thanks anyways.

They have no replied to my emails nor have they removed the material. I turned the hotlinking protection on my server but the rest remains there. I called them and talked to someone on the legal department saying I am willing to submit proof of ownership of the material if they need it but that I request they do remove the material ASAP.

Again, they left me with the feeling of not caring. Like ‘whatcha gonna do punk?’ :mad:

You need to turn off the hotlinking protection and replace all the graphics with ones that say “copyright violators and thieves,” or any graphic of your choice. :smiley: Maybe some embarrassment will get their attention. Or at least you’ll feel a little better. :wink:

They deleted it. I called them yesterday and spoke to someone in the legal department. They were nice and helpful, even called me twice to make sure I was happy with what they had done. I was VERY surprised (nice lawyers, wouldn’t you think? :slight_smile: )

They told me to keep an eye on them anyways as many things fly under the radar and somebody else might try again. Two posters were banned.

If the servers are based in the use, send a DMCA letter to the site and then the server. They are supposed to remove violations in 24 hours. If they don’t you can try going upstream (though if the place is big enough it won’t help).

It is a really huge problem. I have sites with mythology articles, and I half expect kids who are selfish and don’t know better to steal things, but I’ve had schools and universities take my copyright articles and graphics and put them on their public websites. When I complain to schools it usually gets taken care of – eventually – but I’ve had some of them act extremely rude and irresponsible about it.

If they don’t respond you can also file DMCA-style complaints with search engines to get the pages delisted. I’ve never gone that far yet.