Earlier this month, I participated in a panel discussion on Blogging Basics. During the panel, I discussed bloggers’ common legal questions including the following:
How Do I Protect My Blog Material?
Under current law, your blog is copyrighted as soon as it is fixed in a tangible medium of expression. That language comes directly from the Copyright Act and means that your blog material is copyrighted as soon as you write it down or record it. While registration with the U.S. Copyright Office is not required for a valid copyright, you may want to register the copyright in your blog to maximize your ability to protect it.
What Can I Do If Someone Uses Content from My Blog?
Sometimes people will use your blog content without your authorization. This is sometimes referred to as having your content scraped. Here are few ways to respond if this happens to you:
Send a cease and desist letter. In a cease and desist letter, you explain how the other party is violating your rights and demand that the party cease those activities. Cease and Desist letters do not always have to be mean and nasty formal missives from an attorney. It can be a courteous email message from you in which you tell the other party to remove your material, to give you attribution if they want to keep your material posted, or to pay you a licensing fee – depending on the result you want. Sometimes simply calling the person out gets you the result you want. Exercise some care in this process because there are definitely wrong ways to send cease and desist letters.
Send a DMCA take-down letter. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) provides a safe harbor that insulates online sites from claims of copyright infringement for material posted by their customers and online visitors. To qualify for the DMCA safe harbor, online producers must remove infringing material upon the request of the copyright owner. Many online sites including social networking sites like youtube and facebook and web hosting sites like typepad and blogger rely on the DMCA safe harbors. Most offer instructions on their sites explaining how to submit a take-down request.
File a Copyright Infringement Lawsuit. If a cease-and-desist letter or DMCA take-down notice does not resolve the issue, a copyright infringement lawsuit may be the only remaining alternative. Unfortunately, a copyright infringement lawsuit is an illusive alternative for many because the cost of litigation may be more than the damages that can be recovered from the infringer. There are some inspiring examples of how non-lawyers have handled their own copyright lawsuits. But that’s not for everyone.