Friday, January 15, 2010
You've Been Scraped. Now What?
In a prior post I discussed an uproar by some bloggers over their work being hotlinked by other sites. Because those bloggers raised a justified stink, the problems with certain sites have been resolved, i.e., the hotlinkers stopped appropriating material they didn't create.
But that doesn't mean it won't happen again. So if it happens to you, what are your options?
(Standard disclaimer: I ain't a lawyer. I'm just sharing some info I've found on the net.)
Steve O'Donnell, a patent lawyer over at the 3C Patent blog, offers his take on the issue in his post, How many copyrights does your blog infringe? He deals with pictures being scraped, including the use of in-line links or hotlinking, but what he discusses can be applied to other works.
By taking legal action against the infringer, the infringed party could win up to $150,000 per violation. O'Donnell says that what would most likely happen is the infringer could be nailed for $750 for a registered work plus attorney fees.
The key word is registered work, stuff on file with the copyright office. With unregistered work damages would be limited to actual damages and attorney fees for the infringed party.
(Note: You don't have to spend time and money registering your work with the copyright office for it to be copyrighted. As soon as you create a work in a tangible form, automatically you have copyright on it. Registration allows you to sue for damages from the day it was registered. With an unregistered work, you can only go back to the day the infringement was discovered. Or so I understand...)
O'Donnell says a more likely course of action is to sending a takedown notice to the infringer's ISP.
But regarding hotlinking images as a copyright violation, Mike Masnik over at techdirt.com disagrees in his post, Is Inline Linking To An Image Copyright Infringement? He states: "Technically, a hotlinked image is no different than a link to an image. The difference in code is minimal. The image itself is never 'copied' onto your server. All you are doing is telling a computer to go visit the original version of the image, which was put there on purpose."
So the issue isn't that cut and dry.
But keep in mind that Masnik has a different take on how to handle people who copy your stuff for their own gain. Recently a cartoonist complained that someone was republishing his web comic with an fee based iPhone app, making money from his work that he shares for free. In his post The Creator's Dilemma On Others Making Money Off Your Content Masnik said one option for the cartoonist was to approach the infringer and ask for a fair cut of the revenue. The cartoonist could tell the infringer that he would promote the app to his fans so that both of them would benefit.
Sorta like coming to terms with a tapeworm in your gut by feeding it.
Posted by Ray Palm (Ray X) at 1:07 AM