The Menace Of Copyright

Last week, I was in the middle of writing about the girl who quit her job with dry erase board, when I realized I can't get any pictures to illustrate the post. The only thing that would work would be one of the images from the original hoax, or some derivative of it. But all of them were copyrighted.

Being a nice and IP sensitive person as I am, I checked the ToS on the site: 

Any authorization to copy Material granted by Rober Media LLC in any part of Rober Media LLC websites for any reason is restricted to making a single copy for non-commercial, personal, entertainment use on a single computer only, and is subject to your keeping intact all copyright and other proprietary notices. Using any Material on any other web site or networked computer environment is prohibited.

Translated from the lawspeak, they authorize me (and you) to see the website and to make a single copy for private entertainment on one computer. Nothing more than that. BTW, that "making a single copy on a single computer" is what happens automatically when you open any web page. Computer makes the copy on your hard drive and keeps it for a while. Without that sentence, each visitor of the site would unintentionally break the law. 

Though there was nothing about it in the ToS, I guessed that I could send them an email asking for a permission to post one of their photos as an illustration to the post, noting that links and credits will be given, blah, blah… And then wait for an answer. 

Which would, in the best scenario, took us a whole day. One day is a long time in the life of an Internet meme. And then, if every blogger that wanted to chit-chat a bit about the story sent an email asking for a permission for a photo, they would be in a deep pile of boring errands. I dropped the idea of sending an email and published the post with one of their images.

copyright criminal bustedphoto by Alec Couros

So, it's been a week since I willingly broke the copyright. I got no requests to put down the post yet. probably won't get any at all. For two reasons: I'm too small and under the radar. Second, they have no interest in chasing people for spreading the meme. On contrary. That post was meant to be shared around. That's how websites gain readers, popularity and higher Google pagerank. 

But why they don't use some other copyright license then? Creative Commons would work perfectly in  a case like this one. Creative Commons was invented for cases like this one. 

This is not just The Chive. Large part of the web works on the same principle. It's easier to slap some lawspeak that forbids everything to everybody and then decide which cases really violate the IP rights and which not. Make everybody guilty then decide which are worth suing. No reason to start living in the digital world of the 21st century.

It's insane. 

Possibly Related Posts


  • How long before the web changes copyright forever and creative commons becomes the default, and you have to specify an All Rights Reserved license?

    In most cases, I don't think people care as long as nobody else is directly making a profit from their work – and in this particular case from The Chive, surely the more people who spread the images, the better?

    Everyone's striving to be viral, but for that, the work needs to be free to share. But then, everyone wants the traffic to come back to their site. It's a two way street, and monitoring the flow is difficult.

  • Exactly. "All rights reserved" is against everybody in the game.

  • If all rights are indeed "reserved", then what is to stop me from putting content online, and then including a disclaimer that viewing the images and reading the text is prohibited without express written permission of the copyright holder?  Visit my site, I got your IP address, you'll be hearing from my lawyer.

    This exact situation is something that is often completely misunderstood about the nuances of copyright. It is up to the copyright holder to decide and pursue what THEY feel infringes on their copyright and what is worth pursuing. They can even knowingly ALLOW after the fact some(especially in the case of things that help their promotions) "violations" of copyright. Many even work out mutually beneficial financial/use deals in places where the copyright holder had no market lets say (like SL for example) there are a LOT of grey areas and a LOT open to individual decisions/lenience/choice of the copyright holder. I wish people would stop thinking of copyright as a strict LAW that has to be adhered to or there will be jailtime, it's not. It is the right of a person/persons or company to decide how and when to protect their property In the serious cases where it goes to court it is up to a judge to decide if there will be  damages which in many cases there are not and many cases end in the material being simply taken down or a financial deal being struck. As an example I can conceivably accuse the very handsome and intelligent Prad right this moment of copyright violation and sue him, does that mean I will win in court or that it will ever make it to court? Of course not. And if it did he could easily make me a monetary offer at any time whereby he could continue to use the material or not. That's the nature of copyright law and it happens every day. It is always up to the copyright holder to decide what they feel infringes on their own property and if it does, if it is in their best interests to pursue legal action.

  • LOL Marx. That's an idea worth trying. :)
    Ivey, I agree that each of us has a right to decide which license to apply to own intellectual property. And we both see that some people and companies actually state one license and act on the rules of the other. And that's where the mess starts. Saying one thing and then randomly decide if they are going to respect their own license is just childish. Especially if one takes a look in all the serious talk in the ToS'es around the web. First you pay the lawyers to make the serious-sounding text prohibiting everything, then you act from case to case. Why not paying those lawyers to do the proper job about licensing in the first place?

  • I don't think its necessarily childish as it is acting on their own potential best interests. It's happened time and time again in "real world" instances that an infringement of legal and stated copyright turned out to be a positive financial or promotional win for a copyright holder, so they assume there will be a certain amount of copying. Also there is absolutely no way to know every instance of copyright violation, especially now with web content being a new-ish horizon. in the same sense that Prada will never know how many knockoff bags and shoes are being sold or Musicians will never know how many copies of their CD is being passed around. It has to be on a case by case basis just because it's impossible to be that aware and because they may come out on top in the end by getting a settlement, a cut or customer demand for the real thing due to the extra marketing they didn't have to pay for. 

  • it's never case by case basis. There's always some principle behind it. Like, you might not want to allow sharing your stuff in commercial projects but you are OK with sharing with non-commercial ones. Or you might have a preference about using your stuff for derivative works. Stating our preferences clearly helps both sides. 

  • Exactly. “All rights reserved” is against everybody in the game.

  • it’s never case by case basis. There’s always some principle behind it. Like, you might not want to allow sharing your stuff in commercial projects but you are OK with sharing with non-commercial ones. Or you might have a preference about using your stuff for derivative works. Stating our preferences clearly helps both sides. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *