My Copyright Was Infringed!
by Michael Patrick Goad
While looking for pages linked to our internet sites, I came across some material that looked astonishingly familiar, so familiar, in fact, that it was the entire text from one of my web sites.
The really amazing and ironic aspect of the whole thing was that the site that was copied was a site on get this copyright.
Not only that, but it was published on a county GenWeb site hosted on RootsWeb.
After the realization of what I found sank in, I looked for and found the e-mail addresses of the people I would need to contact in order to remedy the copyright infringement of my material. Then I wrote a message that laid out the situation as I saw it, though I did give the benefit of the doubt by requesting that they provide a copy of any permission document that they might have received, just in case I had given permission and didnt remember. Unlikely, of course, but possible, I guess.
I tried to be nice and polite in the email. I told them that
· I welcomed links to my site but that I had a problem with someone taking my original expression and placing it on their site.
· Using my material was not only copyright infringement, but also plagiarism since the arrangement of the page did not identify the author of the material.
· I would be contacting RootsWeb about the infringing material residing on their servers.
I figured that I would wait a couple of days before I took any action to contact RootsWeb about it.
I didnt have to.
The same day I sent the email, I got a response telling me that it had been removed and that the material was something that had been submitted by a volunteer. They explained to me that there was no way that county coordinators could take the time to verify the copyright status of every bit of material that was submitted, and I agree with that, for the most part.
Ideally, all submitters and all webmasters would be knowledgeable on copyright law and be able to determine very easily what is protected by copyright and what is not.
Realistically, copyright is not often well understood and determining whether something is protected or not is not always easy. Compounding the problem with understanding copyright is the amount of misinformation that is available on the internet from people who, for the most part, are well-intentioned.
The misinformation and misunderstanding of copyright as it relates to genealogy is what led several years ago to my researching copyright. I found the topic to be very interesting and have developed on-line material related to it. I continue writing about copyright today with the hopes of trying to help others have a better understanding of it.
Related to the copyright infringement of my material, there are two other articles that are available for reprint and redistribution.
Both articles are located with other articles, including this one, on this site at CopyrightConcepts home page.
I very much appreciate and thank once more the GenWeb county coordinators who responded so wonderfully and correctly to the copyright infringement that was found on their site. They demonstrated that copyright can, in fact, work in our genealogy community without recourse to contacting internet service providers or filing suit.