Tips for Dealing with Copyright Infringement from Laure Latham, Edward Hasbrouck, Suzie Rodriguez & Dick Jordan

The following information is from the BATW Yahoo Group and is an exchange of tales of copyright infringement and tips for trying to solve those problems.  If you’re not yet a BATW Yahoo Group member, contact David Sanger to join.
April Orcutt
BATW Website Editor

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I just googled my name and saw a magazine website that used a recent story of mine without my permission. They gave me credit but not the original publication and made it look like I wrote it for them. What should I do? Is there anything I can do?  
Beverly Mann
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From Edward Hasbrouck:

From your description, this sounds like copyright infringement.

How to proceed can be a complex question. (If you are a member of National Writers Union, their grievance advisors can help you figure out what to do.)

If the work was previously published (legally) somewhere else, there may be terms in the original publication about how you are to deal with infringement. Check your contract (you do keep copies, yes?) for its provisions. Most book contracts, for example, require the author to notify the publisher if you become aware of infringement. Then there are typically provisions for how author and publisher decide whether to proceed against the infringer separately or individually, who pays any legal fees, and how any damages you may recover are to be divided.

If it wasn’t previously published, or if you retained the rights that are being infringed (this may be the case if you licensed only print rights, retaining copyright and electronic rights, and the infringement is online), you may be on your own.

Your rights, and the possibility of collecting damages, vary depending on whether copyright was registered (either by you or the print publisher).

I am not a lawyer, but one possibility may be a copyright infringement lawsuit or, more feasibly, a threat of one, which may enable you to negotiate some compensation as a settlement. More likely, the infringer will take the bootleg copy down, but won’t want to pay damages.

If you just want to get them to take it down, your options include an informal demand letter and a formal DMCA takedown notice.

Depending on the infringer, you may chose to pursue licensing for some ongoing fee, instead of takedown, taking a tone like, “I was pleased to see that you like me article [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][fusion_title] enough to want to re-publish it on your site. I would be happy to license it to you for this use, on the following terms:…”

Hope this helps,

For the record, it’s just fine with me if people use content from my sites as long as they link back to the original.  The key distinction is wherether they “use” content merely by linking to it, or whether they copy it onto their site as well. Linking is (in general, but with some exceptions) permitted without permisison or notice, but copying something onto another site requires permisison.
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From Laure Latham:

[What this person did is] definitely wrong. That’s copyright infringement. Sure they credit you but they reprint the whole thing (right?), make it look like you wrote for them, and get the click and related ad revenue without paying you at the detriment of the website you originally wrote for. What are they thinking? not even asking for permission to reprint? That’s a matter for your publisher to deal with and you should coordinate with them. They’re the ones losing money on this unless you’re also paid on a click per page basis. They’ll determine what kind of action they want to pursue: take down page, allow for partial reprint with link, ask for statutory damages.

I call that stealing.

Goods luck on this,

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From Suzie Rodriguez:

A while back I did an interview with Karen Misuraca that was posted on a website I maintained at the time — subject was romantic destinations in Hawaii. It was a Q&A, with “Suzie” and “Karen” before the questions and replies. There was some joking around, Karen mentioned her Hawaiian honeymoon, etc. — it was the kind of interview that only two people who know each other could conduct.

Some woman stole the entire interview and put it on her site without any attribution or link. She maintained the “Karen” and “Suzie” format, though! Karen found it — I think through the fabulous Google Alerts. I got in touch with the thief and asked her politely to either link to my site or remove it. To my astonishment, she acted insulted that I would request such a thing. I then sent a takedown notice (see below) and alerted her that I had done so. I also posted a notification on the website of ASJA (American Society of Journalists & Authors) about this incident, referring to her as a “thief,” and sent her a copy of my notificaton. I next informed her that I had turned the entire matter over to my lawyer (one of my oldest friends who is, indeed, a lawyer). I did all of this within the space of half an hour. I’m not sure which action worked, but that stolen article of mine was removed pronto.

For the record, it’s just fine with me if people use content from my sites as long as they link back to the original. That’s the accepted ethic of the Internet, and the way things should work: a link brings traffic and bots to your site, increasing its visibility. Most people do this. There’s no need to tell you they’ve done it if they put up a link, but I’ve had requests from people asking if they can put up some of my content before they actually do so.

Here is a link to a page where a copyright lawyer explains in layperson’s language what a takedown notice is and tell you how to send one. Although it’s geared to photographers, it works just the same for writers.

Suzie Rodriguez

The link to learn about takedown notices:
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From Dick Jordan

I often post links on my blog ( to stories published on-line.  My “Travel News Updates” are an example; here’s the one from last week.

Sometimes I want to do more than just post a link to a story. When commenting on a National Geographic story, I pulled a photo from the magazine’s Website, and put in link to the article.  When I e-mailed the photographer and sent him a link to the post, he wrote back and said he was adding the link to my post to his Website as an example of “fair use” of someone else’s work.  Reading about this year’s Shanghai Expo prompted me to write a couple of posts about China; in one post I not only linked to a story by Linda Watanabe McFerrin, but quoted rather extensively from it, much to Linda’s pleasure.

I don’t, of course, “capture” an entire story by another writer, plop it into my blog, and claim authorship, as happened with Suzanne’s piece.  Hopefully, this kind of digital piracy doesn’t happen very often.  I haven’t personally experienced this, although I have had my blog posts linked to other sites (and on two occasions I asked the site to remove the link).

Dick Jordan
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From April Orcutt

I suggest you Google a unique phrase or sentence in the article using quotation marks as well to see whether anyone else posted it without even giving you credit.

April Orcutt
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From Laurie McAndish King

Good answers, everyone. I agree: ask your publisher to handle it. (If you happen to be your own publisher, or your publisher is unresponsive, then it’s your job to follow up and ask firmly for what you want.) I can’t imagine that you could get damages, but you should be able to get them to either take it down or to post only part and link to the original article.

And yes, do Google a unique phrase (in quotation marks) to check for publication elsewhere. You can also set up a Google Alert for the phrase, to automate the search on an ongoing basis.

Good luck. Let us know the outcome.

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Next month – dealing with stolen photos . . .



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