Who Owns What You Write? *UPDATED*

By
Services for Real Estate Pros with Real Estate Shows

Girl at ComputerEasy answer: YOU DO.  From the moment you write and publish an original article, it is copyrighted and protected as your intellectual property. 

The copy and paste feature along with loads of content all over the internet makes it very easy for sploggers to steal work and publish it as their own.  Even the RSS feeds that are meant to make it easier for your readers to keep up with your blog can work against you if a splogger syndicates your feed as his own.  This is more common than you might think.  (Happened to a bunch of us here on Active Rain recently!)

How can you protect yourself?  There are a couple easy ways.  One is setting up Google Alerts.  These are free and will search for the key words of your choice, such as the name of your blog or phrases you might use often in your blog, such as “real estate” with the name of your city or area.  (Some people use quirky words or phrases in their blogs to set off Google Alerts as an added protection.)  It’s a good idea to also have a Google search of your name. 

Copyscape is a low cost service that reads your entire site and keeps searching the internet for work that is similar to yours.  They’ll alert you if they find a page that has a suspicious amount of similar words.  Changing around little bits of your work won’t hide it if you’re protected by Copyscape.  I use it and love it, and it has already alerted me to plagiarizers and thieves.  I feel like my blog has a guard dog.  Even using their banners on your site may protect you from someone who might have thought you looked like a nice target.  (This works in much the same way that a security system sign can protect your home.)

If you are plagiarized, act quickly.  Send a cease and desist letter to every contact you can find on the offending site.  You ARE protected under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act  and you CAN have their site removed from search engine results, effectively making them invisible. 

I should note that not everyone who uses bits of your posts is using you.  A site that uses a few lines of your post as a teaser, then gives a link to your blog to finish reading is doing you a favor.  Digg, Stumbleupon or Technorati are valuable services that can send people to your site.  Blogroll links are fabulous.  If a reader likes what you write about, they'll probably be interested to know what you like to read as well.  Tell 'em, pass on some link love. 

Any site that uses your entire post is not your friend.  Hiding links, not using your name or the name of your blog or changing the author information to look like they’ve written the post is stealing, plain and simple.  Publishing your entire post leaves no reason at all to visit your site.  They have effectively jumped in between you and your reader.

*** IMPORTANT UPDATE!!!  Tricia Jumonville shares the following with us, and I didn't want it to disappear in the comments:

One quick correction - from the moment you write and fix the article (or any other writing) in permanent form (on your computer counts, per the U.S. Copyright Office), it is copyrighted.  You don't have to publish it,  register it, put a copyright symbol on it, or anything else - it's automatic from the moment of creation.

Thank you, Tricia.  We needed to hear that.

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Rainer
48,998
Tucson Real Estate Experts Anne McKechnie
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Tucson, AZ
Previews Property Specialist

thanks for sharing

anne

Dec 31, 2007 12:19 AM #100
Rainer
229,290
Sarah Cooper
Real Estate Shows - Hurricane, WV

Anne - You're very welcome.  :o)

Tricia - I have that same urge, to check out someone's work when I see them defending plagiarism.  I know you know this, I'm just saying -- if you're BLOGGING, you are not just giving information, but also saying how you feel about it, or how you think it will impact your community or whatever.  It's personal, or it's not a blog.  You don't copy and paste your own opinion, you write an original work about your topic.  Am I right?

Terrylynn - I didn't think about any of this stuff until my stuff had been swiped a few times.  With so many blogging Realtors, I wonder how long it will be until they have to include the topic of plagiarism directly into the code of ethics?  Some people need stuff spelled out specifically, don't they?

Joseph - I do not care to be the internet police, but I will defend my own work as best I can.  I don't throw out a bunch of market reports or statistics gathered by others.  I write about my local area and I how I feel about it.  A blog is part journal, or it's not really a blog.  By definition it almost HAS to be personal.  For someone to copy how I feel about something and use that as their own is just wrong.  My last plagiarizer used photos of me, my signature and personal posts, none of which had anything to do with real estate, and used them to fill space for himself on a 50 states kind of site he was modeling after Active Rain -- for his own profit, of course.  

I'm thinking you're reading the wrong bloggers if you think everything online is just regurgitated crap.  The stuff I read makes me think, "Wow, I wish I could get my meaning across so well!" 

Dec 31, 2007 04:01 AM #101
Rainer
19,093
Joseph Grabowski
Keller Williams Preferred Real Estate - Yardley, PA
REALTOR - 4saleinbucks.com

Tricia, sarah, and whoever else....

If you would like to go back and reread my comments, I never condoned or defended plagiarism. I've only said that most stuff on the internet is not original, most is regurgitated, and I even said I understand that if someone blatantly plagiarized (like copy & paste) then  that is a  copy right violation. But  to prosecute might be a waste of time, money, and resources. So, if you think that is defending plagiarism, i don't know what to tell you. 

So, feel free to keep track of my blog and posts. I will be out practicing real estate instead of worry about what people are doing online. LOL 

And yes, I think most stuff on the internet is regurgitated and unoriginal. Most of it is taken from other sources. Bloggings about yourself, your life, or an experience are usually the only original things written. Some people have original ideas or have interesting posts, but the majority of them are garbage. 95% of the posts here on activerain are garbage. Yes, there is lots of useful info, but theres lots of garbage.

 So, keep close guard of your activerain blogs. Don't want anyone to steal them. lol

Dec 31, 2007 12:29 PM #102
Rainer
19,093
Joseph Grabowski
Keller Williams Preferred Real Estate - Yardley, PA
REALTOR - 4saleinbucks.com

 FYI

Oh, and if you dig a little more deeply, you'll see that even if you blog or write something, it may not be "protected" by copywrite law. AND it may be public domain.

Dec 31, 2007 12:39 PM #103
Rainmaker
223,891
Tricia Jumonville
Bradfield Properties - Georgetown, TX
Texas REALTOR , Agent With Horse Sense

Joseph, you are WAY off track.  If you study copyright, go to the U.S. Copyright Office website, read the Berne Convention, etc., you'll see that pretty much everything is copyrighted to SOMEONE at the moment of creation. In most cases, it's the original author, photographer, etc.; the exception is when the work is done for hire AND there is an agreement in writing that the employer owns the copyright.  No blog or other written work is automatically in the public domain unless it was written prior to 1978, I believe it is, or unless the copyright holder specifically placed there.

Now, facts and ideas aren't copyrighted, but the specific expression of them is.  Thus, calendars (except for the specific design) aren't copyrighted, but we're not talking about that, are we?  

Photos most definitely are copyrighted from the moment the button is clicked and they are stored on a digital camera.  No question there. 

A blog, by definition, is an expression of original work, though. 

If you're talking about fair use, good luck to you with that one.   

As for worrying about what people do on the internet, I don't spend a lot of my time worrying about car thieves or identity theft, either.  However, if I hear someone defending those as good or even acceptable practices, I'm sure going to disagree with them.  Theft is theft, and calling it something else doesn't change that. 

 

 

Dec 31, 2007 01:10 PM #104
Rainer
19,093
Joseph Grabowski
Keller Williams Preferred Real Estate - Yardley, PA
REALTOR - 4saleinbucks.com

Tricia,

Go reread my last post.

Just because your work might  copyrighted at the moment it is created, does not mean it is "protected" by copyright law.

And I don't know where you are coming up with this "defending theft as a good or acceptable practice". I never said anything of the sort. But from your last few posts, I gather that you like to take what people say and twist it around. 

Jan 01, 2008 05:55 PM #105
Rainmaker
82,076
Meg Zoller
Keller Williams - Houston, TX
Houston Fine Homes

Sarah - Thank you very much for sharing this valuable information.  We need to know how to protect ourselves. This is something I need to learn more about.

Happy New Year!

Jan 01, 2008 06:19 PM #106
Rainer
19,093
Joseph Grabowski
Keller Williams Preferred Real Estate - Yardley, PA
REALTOR - 4saleinbucks.com
For you copyright experts, a market statistic report derived, copy & pasted from your area's MLS website; is it a violation of copyright if you post it in your blog?
Jan 02, 2008 03:13 PM #107
Rainmaker
223,891
Tricia Jumonville
Bradfield Properties - Georgetown, TX
Texas REALTOR , Agent With Horse Sense

Well, first, with the caveat that most of what's been said here doesn't make anyone an expert on copyright - most of what's been conveyed is really Copyright 101 that anyone should have been taught in school.  That be ing said: 

Depends on a few things.  First, it depends on whether or not you literally copied and pasted it from the MLS itself, using their format. (Information can't be copyrighted, just the expression of that information in specific words or tables or arrangement or whatever.)  Second, it depends on your agreement with the MLS - do they explicitly allow you to copy and paste their tables?  In which case, while they own the copyright, you have the copyright holders permission to use their work in a particular fashion.  (Permission to use it one way doesn't convey permission to use it other ways.)  

So, if you took (derived) information from the MLS and did your own calculations, you'd be free and clear.  If your agreement with the MLS gave you permission to use their tables by copying and pasting, you'd be free and clear.  If the MLS was a governmental body (I don't know that any are, though, nor do I know if there are any that are), you'd be free and clear, because publications by the government are not copyrighted, by statute.  

Plain old copy and paste?  Given all the "it depends", if it were me, I'd ask for permission first unless I knew for a fact that it was okay to use.  Just like I do when I'm looking to reprint an article in the publication that I'm an editor of - check with the publication where it was originally published first, and if they don't own the copyright (and most of them don't, they've just gotten print rights from the author), check with the author.  Never been turned down yet, but I'm covered, ethically and legally.

 

Jan 02, 2008 11:58 PM #108
Rainer
20,426
Robert Krames
Smart Media Creative Solutions - Gainesville, FL
Here is a sample cease a desist letter. It's worht noting that sometimes you can contact a splogger's hosting provider and get them taken off the web. Most legit web hosts will have a term's of use policy, and police people who violate it.
Jan 03, 2008 12:16 AM #109
Rainer
19,093
Joseph Grabowski
Keller Williams Preferred Real Estate - Yardley, PA
REALTOR - 4saleinbucks.com

Tricia,

The reason I ask about copy & pasting an area's MLS market reports is because I see so many people here on activerain doing it. And every MLS that I have seen has a statement similar to,

 

Jan 03, 2008 12:41 AM #110
Rainmaker
223,891
Tricia Jumonville
Bradfield Properties - Georgetown, TX
Texas REALTOR , Agent With Horse Sense

Well, there you go.  Of course, it's copyrighted (copyright notice or no copyright notice - that's not been required since 1989)d; the answer is in each individual MLS's terms of service. So there are no doubt people on here doing that in violation of copyright, as well (that shouldn't come as a big surprise) - we wouldn't know unless we had access to the terms of service of their specific MLS.  Now, title companies sometimes create similar tables and such from the same data regarding closings and make that available to agents for such uses, as a service (and marketing ploy ;-) ) - question would be whether the table came from an MLS or a title company that was doing such.

But even using a title company's tables, I'd be inclined to ask BEFORE using, just to be sure, unless the page or website I got it from said in unmistakable terms that it was available for such use.  

 

Jan 03, 2008 12:51 AM #111
Rainer
19,093
Joseph Grabowski
Keller Williams Preferred Real Estate - Yardley, PA
REALTOR - 4saleinbucks.com
If these are copyrighted, then they are stealing, right? I am talking about the other agents here that copy & paste from their MLS system. (i.e., reports, etc...)
Jan 04, 2008 11:02 AM #112
Rainmaker
223,891
Tricia Jumonville
Bradfield Properties - Georgetown, TX
Texas REALTOR , Agent With Horse Sense

Joseph, that's already been answered pretty thoroughly - it depends on their arrangement with their MLS - they could be, they could not be, I just don't know.   Having difficulty getting your point.  Wait.  Are you trying the "But everyone's else is doing it" tack?  Because I've already raised two kids to adulthood and I have my "If everyone jumped off a cliff, would that mean you should, too" badge. ;-) 

 

Jan 04, 2008 11:09 AM #113
Rainer
19,093
Joseph Grabowski
Keller Williams Preferred Real Estate - Yardley, PA
REALTOR - 4saleinbucks.com

Tricia,

No, I am not trying  "but everyone else is doing it" tack. You don't see me copy & pasting the MLS reports or other people's work, do you? I was just pointing out that other members here are blatantly violating their MLS's Terms. 

Jan 04, 2008 03:34 PM #114
Rainer
34,635
Carl Pruitt
FHA Loan Advice - Buford, GA
http://FHALoanAdvice.com

Very interesting conversation. I hope I didn't miss it somewhere in the billion comments above, but there is one caveat that you need to watch out for. If you are posting on a website, blog or domain that you do not own your content may belong to the site owner if it is specified in the terms of service for the site. For instance, here you automatically give AR permission to use your material anywhere they choose. On Blogger, I believe the terms are that Google actually owns the copyright to the content, and the same may be true of Wordpress blogs unless you have installed wordpress on your own hosting account. This doesn't apply much here, but in some cases if the content you are producing is work product the copyright belongs to your company. In addition, you may lose the copyright or at least full control of content which you submit to article sites.

Nothing significant. Just a little something extra to think about.

Thanks,

Carl Pruitt

 

PS. Also, there is a site http://www.onlywire.com where you can register with more than 20 social bookmarking sites and submit one site to all of them at the same time.

 

Jan 04, 2008 05:28 PM #115
Rainmaker
261,983
Mara Hawks
First Realty Auburn - Auburn, AL
Inactive-2012 REALTOR - Homes for Sale Auburn Real Estate, AL

Sarah, I stumbled on your site this morning, looking for input on copywriting. THIS IS FABULOUS! I can't express my gratitude enough. I spent weeks trying to search & google & make sense of online copywriting, and was still confused. Your blog & all the comments make it all so clear & much easier to understand. THANK YOU!!

I'm fairly new to the blogging scene, and I went through so much anxiety to just cross that bridge to the blogging world. I've long been a purporter of sharing information for the simple sake of education, because it helps ALL OF US together... if 2 people share their one idea, then each of them has 2 ideas. Anyway, I got to cruising through some of your other blogs and they are simply packed with helpful hints and resources. I am, once again, blown away by the torrents of Active Rain!  Thank you, again for outstanding posts & sharing of resources. Your style, for me, is a model of what I'd ascribe to as a professional in this business. I'm truly a visual learner, and your site is full of movement and animation. Thanks for being a complete inspiration!

Feb 23, 2008 10:03 PM #116
Rainer
78,779
Obeoman Glade Jones
www.obeo.com - Salt Lake City, UT

 

Sarah,

Right click and save...four words that make your life easy and hard at the same time.

...the problem here is those people probably aren't reading this blog-but you can be sure they won't copy it!

Steve

Feb 23, 2008 10:25 PM #117
Rainmaker
102,702
Liz Carter
Liz Carter & Team Realty-Your Real Estate Resource For Life! - Katy, TX
Broker/Owner of Liz Carter & Team Realty, Katy TX (Houston)
Thanks so much Sarah, that's good to know.  Now that I am getting into this more I have starting thinking about what I should do to safe guard what I write.  I'll get a guard dog too :).  Liz
Feb 24, 2008 08:46 PM #118
Rainer
229,290
Sarah Cooper
Real Estate Shows - Hurricane, WV

Liz - You'll feel much better when your guard dog reports that all is well.  And if he senses trouble, you can fix it ASAP.  Good stuff!

Steve - Yep, and too many people prefer the easy way out.  Makes it hard on the rest of us, doesn't it?

Mara - You are so very welcome!  If you wrote it, it's yours.  There's no way someone else can use your stuff without your permission and it just be OK.  

I'm a huge fan of sharing ideas, too -- for exactly the same reason.  Ideas grow when you share them and shrink into nothing if you keep them to yourself.  

Carl - VERY, VERY GOOD POINT!!  If you don't own the site ... you don't control how your work there is used.  (Ahem ... do you own Active Rain?)  Makes sense to have a blog of your own, doesn't it?

Joseph & Tricia - Good morning!  Here, have some coffee.  Donuts, anyone?  :)

Robert - Thank you for sharing that!!  :)

Meg - I still need to learn more myself, but I'm working on it.  Each time I get ripped, I learn.  ;)

Feb 24, 2008 09:05 PM #119
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