DMCA and publishing to the web



DMCA, copyrights, and violations

First draft. Comments welcome and suggestions considered.

DMCA and publishing to the net

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA, is quite a good thing. The internet has ushered in a new era of self-publishing authors. Anyone with access to a computer and the internet can publish their own content and know that their property rights are protected. If you have a domain, it is your address to your property. It is your domain so to speak, and the index page is your home page. The content listed under your domain is yours, and it is protected by the DMCA. The script or code you use to construct your property may be fair use, released to public domain, or copyrighted by someone else that has given permissions, but whatever you plug into that script is your property. If you constructed and designed your own script, it is yours as well. The internet is not an open public domain where a person can copy, reprint, sell or sell with resell rights anything they want without permission. Granting permission to another party to reprint your content is a personal choice, but such permission does not grant any implicit notions that the property can be sold or sold with resell rights, or used in any fashion where the explicit intent is to profit from your property.

Prior to the internet, being published for many was a dream come true. What percentage of the population could hope to be actually published? Now, self-publishing authors can have their work accessible to the world population, limited only by the incapacity for someone to gain access to the internet. If it is actually read depends upon whether or not the content offers some information that someone needs. If the content is Search Engine Optimized and presented properly then the search engines will make it easy for anyone to find it, quality of the work notwithstanding. Some author-publishers can't write, some can, but nonetheless it is there for anyone to see, and it is protected.

DMCA and proper citation

The DMCA integrates the various copyright protection notions of the world. It does not belong to any one nation, but to the world (universal). If you published a book or article under US copyright law there are requirements that anyone reprinting all or any portion of a copyright protected publication must follow. It requires citation of the work, author, and location of the cited text or image. In the case of reprinting an excerpt with a word count beyond a certain parameter it will require not only citation, but expressed permission of the author. In the case of reprinting a publication in its entirety it requires expressed permission of the author regardless of the word count. This applies to articles reprinted in whole, no matter how long or short. Permission must be granted and the source must be cited.

How does the DMCA differ from copyright law? That is not to be discussed here. What is to be pointed out here is the differences in the manner in which the material should be cited given the parameters of the way the content is made accessible and presented on the internet, which is basically through linking, search engines, or directories. If a quote from a book is cited, the citation provides a means for anyone wishing to access the source possible. The quote is from a book or article in a self-contained entity. This may not be true on the internet given that search engines can direct you to a snippet of text based on certain keywords on some page on the net. If your article is reprinted on a website and spans several pages, this means that citations must be given on every page where the text concludes. If access is gained to a snippet of code on page two of a reprinted article where there may not be a source cited at the bottom of the text, then confusion may result for the reader as to whose property it is. The reader should not have to look beyond that page to know the source. This applies to directories where an index page may be constructed listing article titles and the authors linking to another page where the article content actually is. The source must be given on that page at the conclusion of the text. The reader should not have to search beyond that page in order to know the source or cite the work. The reason for this is the capability of a searcher (web surfer) to access a page point blank by means of links, search engine findings, or erroneous listings in directories, based upon a keyword phrase or snippet of code. Directories with indexes leading to anonymous appearing articles are using improper citations on the web. Direct access from anyplace on the web means the citation must be given on the page or each page of the article's text.

DMCA and blogging

What if you don't have a domain? That doesn't mean you can't publish to the web. You can always blog. Domain owners often use an address to blog but even if you don't own a domain you can obtain space at one of many blog sites. The DMCA applies to bloggers as well. Their content is protected, but I also find that bloggers are often guilty of stealing material from the web, copying text without quote or citation en masse. Enough said.

Who violates the DMCA?

Actually, most people want nothing to do with stealing material and the possibility of infringement. However, it happens on a massive scale everyday and usually the violators are not even aware that they are doing it. These are the people who buy prebuilt article sites or article databases for website material and publish unaware that because they bought the material (it was sold to them) it is a good possibility they are complicit in infringing a copyright. And often the author isn't even aware that their copyrights are being infringed. Some of this material is legitimate to use. There are plenty of writers making content for sale, but they are also relinguishing the copyrights when they sell it. On the other hand, much of this material is stolen (or purchased?) from article submission sites where their material is stated to maintain its copyright in the terms and conditions of service. The fact is the copyright is infringed the moment it is sold (and bought) without the author's permission.

Article submission directories

The many article submission sites across the web are always an option, but there are many pros and cons to allowing them to post your work. Their terms and conditions of service will state that your material remains copyright protected, but they reserve the right to allow users to reprint any article to the internet. The terms of using the site in order to gain material also requires that proper rules of citation and credit given be followed when republishing the article to the web. But that is pretty much where the protection stops. If someone copies your article and republishes without following the DMCA then the worst that can happen is the article submission directory will suspend that user from using further content, but will leave enforcing the DMCA to the author. What that means is that anyone can copy your work from their directory and if they violate the DMCA it is the onus of the author to file the right papers with the right party in order to get the violation corrected. So, you want to be published? Perhaps seeing your work and your name up in bright lights on potentially thousands of web pages across the internet, and your name in every search engine is alright. If so, then this may be the option for you, but beware of the compromise to your dignity and the dignity of your work when something goes awry, and inevitably, it will.

The paradox in article submission sites terms and conditions of service

This brings us to an important point. Does it state anywhere in the terms and conditions of services of the article submission directory that anyone will be granted the right to sell, sell with resell rights, or post your material anywhere in general where the profit motive is the objective? Is this implicit in conditions granting the right to reprint anywhere on the net? No. Not if it is explicitly stated that your copyright protection is maintained when submitting your material. The profit motive is not an implicit condition in giving permission to reprint your material. It must be explicitly stated.

PLR article packages and adsense ready websites

So, when you find your material is being packaged in article database bundles or housed in packages of ready made websites being sold on ebay or other websites, most with the intention of profiting through Google adsense, Yahoo, or some other click through entity, are you proud to see your name and material plastered across hundreds of websites that will eventually be filtered out by the search engines and accessed only by clicking on the "include omitted search results" link, or will you feel that the dignity of your work has been compromised?. Is this what having your name and material up in bright lights means? If so, that is fine. If you are satisfied with simply passing out information, good or bad, and be done with it, then go for it. See you in the dregs of the search engines.

Enforcing DMCA

Or, has your dignity been compromised and can anything be done to correct it? If you ask your article submission site if they gain revenue from your work they will say no if they say anything at all. Otherwise they are in breach of their own terms and conditions of service if they maintained that you retain your copyrights. What will they say if you ask them if they packaged the material? I doubt that you will get an answer to that question. This means that it is the many subscribers to their service who package the bundles for resale and are in violation of the article submission site's terms and conditions. It is a civil violation and can be a criminal act. A liability does exist and copyrights can be enforced. Submitting your material to article submission sites with permission to reprint while retaining copyrights does not make your material fair use or public domain, and this is what is being assumed in selling packaged bundles, granting resell rights, and marketing with the intent of using the material for profit. The article submission site will not enforce your copyrights, and this may make them liable to a degree because they may have packaged the bundle, gained revenue from it, or did not enforce terms and conditions to violating subscribers who did the same.

If you think that your copyright privileges are being violated you can do several things, especially if your text content is being reprinted on a web page with either improper citation or without permission.

  • First, a pleasant letter to the domain owner will usually be sufficient. If you can't find the contact email on the website you can do a whois lookup for the domain name and a contact email is usually provided.
  • Second, if the first attempt is fruitless where you either have an uncooperative web owner or they don't reply to your email, email a DMCA violation notice to the both same address and the name server for that domain. Once again, the whois information will provide the name server, and the name server will usually have an email for reporting abuse or copyright violations. Often the name server is not the same name as the host, but a Google search of the name server will produce the name of the associated hosting website. If the first option doesn't work, this one often will.
  • Third, sometimes the offending website is their own nameserver and you have to find who their nameserver is and contact them. You can do a whois search for this information. Name servers have to have nameservers. If you have not been successful up to this point you can consider filing a complaint with ICANN.ORG. If the offending website has Google adsense or any other click through agency you can report it to those agencies. Google adsense has explicit instructions on how to do this. If you have reached this point in your quest you have to have some patience, but if your claim is legitimate you will be successful.

What about websites selling ready made websites with infringing material, or PLR article packages containing copyright protected material? If you know for certain they are selling material in violation of the DMCA and they are not cooperative you can have the entire site removed. It has been done. The same is true for ebay sellers selling those packages. You must sign-up for their Vero program, but if sellers are distributing copyright infringing website and article packages with infringing content, their listings will be removed from ebay. I recommend being absolutely certain before you take these steps and at times will require first buying the package to confirm it. If you buy the package and find it contains your infringed material, you can take steps to get your purchase price refunded.

Regarding these sellers distributing copyright protected material with resell rights you can get mad and report it to www.usdoj.gov/criminal/cybercrime/ecommerce.html or www.ic3.gov.

How do you find where your material is being reproduced on the internet? A Google search can be tedious if searching for bits of text but can be fruitful. If your material is being spawned en masse across the web in ready made adsense websites and other such packages you may have to “include omitted search results” because Google seems to have a handle on the hundreds of duplicate websites being published and has relegated them for the most part to the dregs of the search results. At one time Yahoo was less discriminate but in recent years has upgraded its filtering technique and can be a very useful search tool as well, but you will have to work through many pages of search results. Amerindian Arts uses Copyscape. You can search by plugging in the web address of your material or copying and pasting a body of text. Not all the results will necessarily be infringing, but you will know where you stuff is and if it is done right. The draw back to Copyscape is that you will only get the top search results, so it should be used in conjunction with all the major search engines.

The material given here is intended for only those who have a legitimate DMCA complaint.

This article is protected under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
All rights reserved 2009, Chet Staley, reprint by permission only

prints@amerindianarts.us