If you’re reading this, you most likely click through to a wide variety of websites each day. From Facebook and Twitter, RSS feeds and things your friends send you via email (LMFAO – you have to watch this). Many of you are fortunate enough to have your words and creations shared in the same way across these channels. People like your take (or not), think you’re funny (think you’re an asshole) and they want to share your message with the people that they influence, care about and who give a flying monkey’s ass about what they think is worth having a gander at.
This week’s bitch slap is about shit that isn’t yours. Shit you don’t have a right to copy, repost, or reprint. It’s not yours.
I’m in New York City this week, speaking at BlogWorld Expo East. Oddly enough, on the topic of “Naughty, Naughty Blogger: the Legal Implications of Blogging.” My co-presenter was none other than Janet Cullum, a leading Intellectual Property attorney with Cooley LLC, and from whom I picked up some pretty serious knowledge. I’m going to share that with you today.
Yesterday, I read a blog post from Matt Inman of The Oatmeal. (Yeah, you might know him – bestselling book, a million plus hits a day on his website. Yeah, him.) He’s having a bit of a problem with FunnyJunk.com allowing user-submitted copies of his work without attribution or linkback. Aside from the epic arrogance and fucktardery of the commentators at FunnyJunk saying he’s ungrateful, an asshole and worse (like “kill the oatmeal” – comment subsequently removed, yet not before 9 jackwagons gave it an upvote), Matt’s not the only artist with stolen images on the site. There are sites around the web that make sunshiny-fucking-day business out of the advertising revenue that comes from people wanting to view stolen content. It’s bullshit to the Nth degree.
When you go got the trouble to create anything and put it online, the law offers you implied copyright. You don’t have to apply for copyright protection for every piece of content you create (this is fact). So when unsavory sites around the web seek to gain financially from content that’s scraped and otherwise stolen from other sites, they are, indeed, practicing copyright infringement. That’s legalese for:
That’s not yours, you don’t have permission to use it and TAKE THAT SHIT DOWN!
You’re getting bitch slapped.
Here’s the thing: we owe a debt of gratitude to the people who create things that make us laugh, think and want to share. When I was in school and writing a research paper, I had to include those stupid fucking bibliographies, footnotes and endnotes. PAIN IN THE ASS. But if I didn’t, I’d get my ass hauled in for plagiarism and then get the privilege of redoing the paper. Again. With thoughts that were my own.
People who have their content stolen shouldn’t be grateful to the people who left click/save or the sites who allow the upload. They should be pissed. Saying they should be grateful to thieves is the same asinine argument that a shoplifter offers a retailer: “I couldn’t afford it/your prices are too high so I stole it.”
You can’t steal movies via Bit Torrent. It’s against the law.
You can’t steal music (remember Napster?). It’s against the law.
You can’t simply use something because you find it online (hello, Cook’s Source).
You can’t be an anonymous commentator and say the solution to this problem is to “kill the oatmeal.”
Quit being a douche canoe (which is a statement of opinion and thus, not defamation/libel) and give credit where credit is due.
Here are some guides for sharing the content you find online:
- Use only what’s necessary: When referring to another source online (image, text, otherwise), use only enough as is necessary to make your point. That’s a quote. An excerpt. And in the case of images, it’s NOT reposting the image unless you’ve acquired the appropriate license.
- Just because it’s online doesn’t mean you can use it. For fuck sake, learn this, would you? I’ve screwed up, you’ve screwed up. We thought something was funny and we saved the image and reposted it. Quit it. Everything online pretty much has a copyright attached to it (just like everything on this site). If you take it, you’re breaking the law.
- Ask the question. Hey, Mr. Blogger/Cartoonist/reporter – can I use that? I get requests multiple times each week to use my content and I share my guidelines. No more than 50 words quoted with a full linkback to the original source. I’m soooo grateful when people ask. Be one of the people that creators appreciate instead of hate.
So what do you do when you find that people are stealing your shit? Well, there are a few bits of recourse for content creators:
- DMCA: The Digital Millenium Copyright Act – read this, know it. When you have issues with other sites stealing your content, submit a takedown notice. There are subscription services who will do this for you or you can do it yourself for free.
- Send a request to the offender – Be nice (though it’s easy to not want to be) and request that the offending content be taken down. State that you own the copyright. Sign it. File it on your computer.
- Contact the offender’s web host – Every hosting company has a customer service department. Use a site like this to find the hosting provider and then give ’em a ring. Hosting companies take things like copyright infringement and privacy quite seriously, as their lifespan as a service provider depends on it.
- Have your attorney send a C&D – It’s legalese for “stop that shit right now.” It’s a formal legal correspondence to request that someone ceasing the practice of something that’s in violation of the law. It costs money, but your shit is worth it, right?
And for the record, I’m not fucking Matt Inman. He’s someone I’ve followed for awhile now and actually got the chance to meet over a burlesque show and a burger earlier this year when he came through Denver. Bottom line, he’s no different than you or me – he creates, and that means he’s entitled to certain protections under the law.
Stand up. Don’t be a prick. Give credit for what you use because you want people to give you credit for what you create. There’s enough pissing and moaning on Twitter about not being credited as the original source on a fucking retweet, so extend your gall to those who don’t properly credit in other cases as well.
This is a slap we all need from time to time, as the internet ain’t free and contrary to what David Meerman Scott might say about content wanting to be free, it ain’t. In my opinion, nor should it be. That’s like telling my attorney he should share his mad skillz with me for free. Bonkers, I say.
Click it, share it, give credit and like water in the desert – use only what you need. If you’ve ever had anything in your life stolen from you, it sucks and the web makes it easier than ever to swipe shit and go undetected. If you have a story to share, share it, because I think we’re all in somewhat of the same position.
And now…you’ve been slapped.