So let's make it clear…

I’ve been publishing things on the web since 1996. I am no stranger to people lifting my stuff. That doesn’t mean that it’s okay or that I’ll take it lying down.

You may notice a new copyright notice in the sidebar to the right, which is designed to be easily seen, as opposed to the © 2008-2010 Kurn’s Corner notice at the bottom of each and every single page, which is a copyright notice nonetheless, but seems to be ignored by many.

What prompted this? I had my heroic Putricide strategy posted, verbatim, on a guild’s forum over a month ago. I discovered it today and requested it be removed. After some initial hesitation on the poster’s part, someone from the guild stepped in and pointed out that I am in the right to assert that my intellectual property should be removed if I didn’t grant them permission.

They edited the post to remove the text and left the link to the original content very promptly, which I greatly appreciate.

However, the initial hesitation on the part of the poster is troubling.

Here is the text of my request:

Hi there, my name is Kurn and I’m the author of the written Putricide strategy posted in this thread.

I appreciate the link to my website, but my strategy as-written is copyrighted material and I would appreciate you removing it from this forum. You can feel free to leave the link to the post in question intact, but I was never asked for permission to repost it. Given the fact there is advertising on this website that either your host or your guild benefits from, I have to ask you to remove the text of the post, as it means that someone is profiting financially from my work without my permission.

Thanks for your cooperation in this matter and best of luck to you with Professor Putricide.

The reply:

This is a guild forum there is no money being made I don’t see a copywritten thing on your page you posted a blog with the strategy found it through google perhaps you should post that on your webpage prior to me removing this. This is a free website that nor me nor anyone else profits from.

Of course, the poster in question is wrong. The webhost serves ads to offset the cost of the forums. Thus, every time someone in the guild visited the thread with my content (the strat), the webhost was financially benefiting from my work.

I refuted the poster’s response and eventually another guild member stepped in and said that they had no choice but to respect my wishes and take it down.

This incident has made me cranky and I will be going through all my important content and tracking down other people who are stealing my content. If there are a significant amount of people who are stealing, reposting and redistributing my content, I’ll have to re-evaluate posting such content at all.

To be absolutely clear, everything I write here is copyrighted, which means that I am the sole owner and copyright holder and I don’t want you distributing my content elsewhere. If you want to post my stuff elsewhere, ask me. We’ll talk.

19 Replies to “So let's make it clear…”

  1. Ugh that sucks. I’ve seen plugins that attempt to prevent people from copying your stuff, but I’m not sure how they work or how effective they are.

  2. Woah, that is so seriously not okay.

    I can’t believe s/he copied and pasted wholesale – I often link to blog strategies on guild websites (when I have a guild!) but the keyword there is “link” not “steal.”

  3. I guess I’m kind of confused about the response. It seemed unintentional with no intent to steal your work. Forgive me for being a little dumb on the rules but they did give you credit by providing the link to your site. If anything you may have more hits now because they may be coming here to see what other types of help your site may offer. I see it as a sort of compliment that they want to use your opinion on how to do the encounter and you now may get more traffic because of it. I really don’t mean to offend and I apologize if I have. I guess I just don’t really know myself how the internet etiquette works by stealing something even tho you’ve shown where it came from.

  4. Tam – Sadly, a lot of people think it’s flat-out okay. :(

    Curiosly – It’s not a matter of etiquette, but rather outright copyright infringement, which is a violation of my rights as the author and a violation of copyright law.

    Here’s what the situation was:

    A forum post contained a video of a heroic Putricide strat, followed by a link to my Putricide post, followed by the ENTIRETY of my post’s text.

    There was no “text courtesy of Kurn from Kurn’s Corner”, not that I had even been asked permission.

    While there was a link to my site and that was greatly appreciated, and even if the link did imply that the author of the text was located at the above link, it still doesn’t give anyone the right to lift nearly 2000 words that I wrote and put it on a forum. As the author, copyright law gives me the control over distribution.

    Nor does a link give them the right to put it on a website where there is advertising. The advertising is earning money for the person who runs the free forum hosting service and so they are earning money for each hit that thread gets — and many hits for that thread were because of my written strategy.

    It did seem that it was unintentional at first; no one was claiming they wrote it. However, the response to my request to remove it showed that the poster really had no idea what the notion of copyright is, nor my legal rights with regards to my work. The poster became defensive and claimed to not see a copyright notice (which appears at the bottom on every single one of my pages) and initially decided not to remove the text in question. It was only removed after I responded with some links regarding copyright claims and one of their guildmates agreed that they had no choice but to remove the content.

    As to your claim regarding visits and traffic from the website, since June 13th (the post at the guild forum was posted on the 14th), I have received three visits from people clicking through that link. The thread on that forum has over 175 views. It’s clear that people were reading the strategy on that forum instead of on my site.

    Check out the legal basics at the bottom of this page to understand things a bit better:

    http://www.templetons.com/brad/copyright.html

  5. You might want to add the Copyright information to a signature type template, as it doesn’t show up on a Feedreader. Maybe something like this http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/

    I certainly respect your right to your material, I suppose I’m just uncertain how you’d go about Copyrighting something. I’m fairly certain that slapping a “This content is copyrighted…” isn’t enough – that it has to be registered somewhere.

    Also, I think you run into issues where your IP may be Copyright protected in say, Canada – but not in say, Maxico.

    Good luck, and keep fighting the good fight! Now if you’ll exuse me, SC2 is waiting to be downloaded.

  6. Ah, Thank you for elaborating. I had a feeling that was a big difference in not only WHAT was being read, but WHERE it was being read that also made a difference.

    If you don’t mind another personal question….I realize that a lot of people get burned when they are nice and like to help people with no personal benefit. I’m like the poster boy for for nice guy gets burned. If you fall into that category then I applaude you for taking whatever precautions necessary. On to my question….If you are that protective of your copyrighted material, why not just limit how hard it is for people to find the information or have people register at your site so that by allowing them to view your site they are asking permission and you are verifying it?

  7. Eugh, that’s crappy, Kurn. I hope you’re able to sort things out and find solutions that work for you, and don’t hinder you from posting useful stuff in the future.
    Not to defend the offender, but maybe they didn’t realize at first that their guild website had ads? Some people use browser/plugin configurations that allow them to be relatively oblivious to such things.
    That does NOT excuse the ‘common sense’ (imo) of it being wrong/stupid to do that in the first place. Linking/giving proper/full credit/driving traffic to content creators is just The Right Thing to Do.

  8. This actually got me reading quite a bit about Canadian copyright laws. I never bothered to slap a copyright note on my page because I figured it wasn’t legally binding, but it seems like you actually don’t have to register to be copyrighted in Canada.

    Although, since all of our material is violating Blizzard’s copyright anyway, I wonder how far we’d be able to take anything in court!

    Personally, I don’t care if people copy-paste my work, as long as they give credit/link back to me. The point of my paladin stuff is to help people, but since there is a lot of time and effort involved, I like to be recognised.

    Along the same topic, something similar happened to Anexxia this week, where someone copy and pasted a few of her blog posts and claimed to be the author. It was pretty enraging.

  9. “Although, since all of our material is violating Blizzard’s copyright anyway, I wonder how far we’d be able to take anything in court!”

    We’re not. Posting chapters from one of the WoW novels would be infringement, but discussion of material under copyright is non-violating. It is like movie reviews.

  10. Ah but there are screenshots and character pictures and drawings that look too much like the originals and names… I’m no lawyer and I don’t know exactly what’s safe and what’s not, but I’m quite positive Blizzard could find something to nail us on if they wanted to.

  11. adgamorix – Just publishing it alone — on the web, on paper, what-have-you, is enough to grant you copyright. As long as it’s an original work, it’s yours.

    I might look into adding a copyright notice to each post, but that seems like a serious PITA. Still, feedreaders can’t be ignored in this day and age.

    As to copyright legislation, the Berne Conention is basically world-wide (almost every European and Asian nation, plus all of North America, Central America, South America and Australia) seems to cover international issues:

    “The Berne Convention has a number of core features, including the principle of national treatment, which holds that each member state to the Convention would give citizens of other member states the same rights of copyright that it gave to its own citizens (Article 3-5).” — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berne_Convention_for_the_Protection_of_Literary_and_Artistic_Works

    Thanks for the well-wishes, though, and the reminder about those accursed feed readers!

    Curiosly – I guess what it boils down to is, why do I blog? I blog for several reasons: 1) I need an outlet. My friends, even my WoW friends, would tire of me VERY QUICKLY if I rambled all this stuff to them constantly. 2) I love to write. I love writing on subjects about which I am passionate. Blogging allows me to write formally and informally and frequently in between and allows me to better organize my own thoughts. Through my Holy How-To Guides, I’ve made a number of discoveries about my own gameplay and have improved my play due to these discoveries. So it helps me organize myself. 3) I love having knowledge and sharing it, without teaching, per se. I don’t like the idea of sitting in front of 30 bored people and teaching them. But I love the idea of someone looking for quality information and finding mine.

    So if I am that protective of my copyrighted material, we now know WHY I write it. Why do I share it? Because I’m a big believer in the public sphere and the exchange of ideas. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_sphere )

    I’m a sociologist, I’m basically trained to talk about ideas that can help shape the world we live in. And if that’s the World of Warcraft, then so be it. I feel strongly that the more discussion we all have about things the better, so long as everyone’s remaining civil. To put my content behind a password or other form of security means two things:

    1) People can’t randomly stumble upon my site while searching for the knowledge they’re seeking.
    2) There would be limited discussion stemming from my material.

    I want to educate people and I want to discuss with people.

    If it proves to be more severe of a problem than I believe it to be, at this point, I’ll likely look into something along those lines. But I’d really prefer not to. It goes against the public sphere and lumps me in with the establishment. One of the great wonders of the early 21st Century is that we get to self-publish. Do you know how precious that is? No longer must we rely on big corporations to tell us how it is; we can report on things ourselves. I choose to report on the state of holy paladins in World of Warcraft, which isn’t as life-changing as other things, but it’s my contribution to the public sphere. I’d hate to make it less public.

    Aloix – I think the poster misinterpreted my statement because he claimed that his guild wasn’t earning money from it. I think he probably just didn’t understand that SOMEONE is getting money in exchange for it being a free webhost, although you could be right. I hate ad blockers, but I also know how annoying irritating ads are. That’s why the ads here are small, inobtrusive and will never be pop-uppy or flashy.

    Ophelie – What Codi said. Our use of images/etc is almost certainly filed under “fair use” or “derivative works” which is not, for example, copying the whole game and calling it something else. We’re taking small images from the game (like my screenshot of Kurn in my header image) and while I would argue that a screenshot is an original derivative work (you chose that angle, that image to capture), if it’s not considered derivative, it is almost certainly fair use.

    Wikipedia talks about fair use here:

    “The third factor assesses the quantity or percentage of the original copyrighted work that has been imported into the new work. In general, the less that is used in relation to the whole, e.g., a few sentences of a text for a book review, the more likely that the sample will be considered fair use.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_use#Amount_and_substantiality

    We’re not using the entire game world, we’re using various small images. When you think that the game world is gigabytes of data, you realize just how small an icon is or a screenshot of my hunter is, for example.

    If they wanted to discourage us from using things like this in terms of fair use, I strongly suspect they would have done so already. Yet huge database sites, from WoWHead to mmo-champion still exist. These sites use much more of the game’s content than the average blogger does and so there is a precedent set by the fact that Blizzard has NOT gone after them with copyright infringement notices.

    I strongly suspect that Blizzard recognizes these sites, while they are, in fact, making money and are for-profit, really enhances the game’s community and the game’s playability, and so it lets them have their small share of the pie. I don’t believe their patience with them is unlimited, but I don’t believe we’ve reached the point where the community/database sites are adversely affecting Blizzard’s bottom line.

    Codi – sooooo. Marriage, y/y? :)

  12. I can understand being pissed off if they didn’t link back (I understand that they did? not sure), but the rest is overreacting imo. They liked your strategy so they wanted to share it with their guildies, how can that be so wrong? I would have no problem doing that, and I’d include a link because I think that’s fair. I’m sure there’s lots of legal stuff at work here and I’m sure it’s your right to bitch at them for copyright infringement… but seriously, it’s a boss strategy, not War and Peace. This doesn’t sound to me like you’re trying to help people. I WISH I could write strategies that good that people felt like sharing them with their guilds.

  13. As far as using Blizzard’s IP – I’m fairly certain that anything that is written as fan fiction actually belongs to Blizzard (Copyright wise) if you don’t have their express permission.

    If you follow that link I posted Kurn, it gives you the code you need to generate the signature automatically with all your posts.

  14. Jen – They did link back, yes. However, someone else — the provider of the free forum — was profiting from my work. That’s not cool. I got three pageviews from their link. The thread had 175 views at last count. 175 views x4 text ads or 1x banner ad = surely more clickthroughs/impressions than my three pageviews would provide.

    That they liked the strategy is lovely. I really hope I did help them refine their strat for Putricide. I hope I’ve helped everyone who’s read it refine and retool their strat.

    However, the written strategy is the result of approximately… two hours of work? That’s writing, editing, adding in links and the like. That’s reading the comments and adding in suggestions from the readers. That’s almost two thousand words right there.

    Two hours is conservative, mind you, and does not take into account the number of times I’ve wiped on Putricide nor the number of times I’ve killed him, all of which combined gives me the knowledge which I then chose to share with the community.

    So two hours of my work was taken from my site, without my permission, and posted on a guild’s website. They didn’t actively take credit for the strategy, but they did not properly attribute it, nor did they excerpt it when linking to me. This is not fair use, this is not a derivative work, this is someone taking my intellectual property and redistributing it without my express permission, without proper attribution and without any compensation or offered compensation.

    It violates my copyright, it violates national and international copyright law and even if it was meant harmlessly, it’s a very good way for me to explain to my readers that my content is meant to be read here (or in RSS readers) and not on a third-party website with advertisements without my permission.

    My choice to use RSS to help others read my updates more easily is just that — my choice — and that is the major difference between the poster’s guild forum post and my decision to allow an RSS feed.

    I don’t think that trying to help people needs to mean that I allow people to steal my content. I think that having my website be the major spot for my own content is reasonable. I think that helping people from my blog and having discussions about my posts on my blog are reasonable expectations. Further, expecting people to adhere to the law should not be unreasonable, in my opinion.

    As I’ve said, I’ve been publishing content on the web in a variety of forms since 1996. I’ve dealt with this sort of thing before, just not in a WoW context. Granted, most of the time it’s been “Hey Legal Dept, copyright infringement here!” Add in the offending links and the links for the original and then done. This is the first time I’ve really had to look at doing it on my own. It’s unfortunate that people are either so ignorant that they believe it’s flat-out okay to paste other people’s content elsewhere without permission, or just don’t care. It’s that kind of attitude that’s going to prevent people from self-publishing, which is one of the greatest notions so far this century, IMHO. :(

    adgamorix – Okay, fanfiction is probably infringement, particularly if you’re using the proper names of people and places. Retelling the story of Arthas would probably be a no-no. Retelling the story of how you tracked down your demons while on your Rhok’delar quest might be a little fuzzier. Telling a story about questing through a similar world, that doesn’t mention any names or doesn’t copy something exactly? Much easier to say that’s fair use.

    I’ll go through the link, although I’m not sure how I feel about it. Blah. I feel like trying to hold on to my rights or trying to exercise my rights, should not be this annoying.

  15. The problem with copyright is that the public doesn’t really understand it, and there is no effort to actually educate us about it. There is a general feeling that ‘it’s out there, I can use it’, which is further spread by the fact that you generally can, though not always legally.

    I’m willing to be that most bloggers don’t care, or would even like, if there material is C&Pd to another page, thus encouraging the people that just don’t get it.

    This is also why there is such a plagiarism problem in schools. It isn’t that students are all maliciously stealing works, it’s that they often don’t know that copying a paragraph just is not right.

    To touch on fanfic:
    My understanding is that it generally falls under fair use. You aren’t copying verbatim. You aren’t selling it (if you do, there goes fair use). And people aren’t going to stop buying Harry Potter and the Whatever because someone posted HP slashfic. I use HP as there was a good example of this a while back when there was a ‘guide’ to HP that was transferred from a free website to a book. The problem was that in making the book they started lifting large segments of text from Rowling’s works, instead of using small sections to backup their points (one is plagiarism, the other is fair use for a scholarly text).

  16. Fanfics -are- considered violating. That’s how Anne Rice was able to enforce her strong stance against any fanfics based on her universe at all, taking legal action against several parties for it.

  17. Hai,

    I know I’ve posted stuff you’ve written on my last guild’s site, but it was either preceded by a link to the page or my post contained only a link to your writing.
    (IE, Putricide strat/RS strat) I honestly can’t recall what else I posted since they revoked my forum access :( but! I’m confident everything I referenced from you has appropriate sourcing with nothing taken verbatim.

    Referencing stuff comes easy to a university student. I think it’s been secretly tattooed onto my brain with threats of expulsion if I don’t ><

  18. thansal – I agree entirely. The public as a whole does not know what copyright really means. They seem to not understand any portion of the law involved and flagrantly violate copyright law constantly. The worst part is that they just don’t understand how redistribution or repackaging the content is harmful to the author.

    As a university student, I attribute EVERY SINGLE IDEA in most of my papers. I’m just the one rounding them all up and organizing them. But every non-original idea is properly referenced. It’s not all that different here on my blog — I always try to attribute things to people, especially blue posts. Like “Ghostcrawler said [quote] [link]”.

    It’s not too hard to use an excerpt and a link, but apparently, that’s just not something people even think about doing.

    With regards to fanfic, a lot of “fandoms” have different tolerance levels. I think that as long as you’re not profiting from it financially, most fandoms will turn a blind eye. But using established characters (and naming them), established places, etc, is technically violation of copyright because it’s not even a derivative work, it’s a work based on the same universe, with the same characters and the same setting. That’s why “The Guild” is based in a fictional MMORPG and not World of Warcraft, even though everyone KNOWS Felicia Day was a WoW addict like the rest of us. ;)

    Codi – I remember hearing about that when it happened and felt it was a little overboard, but I can understand an author being concerned about how her intellectual property is being used.

    Kaleri – See, and that’s the difference. If you want to quote a chunk of my stuff with a link, that’s fine. If people outright take the whole thing and slap it on their website/forum, that’s not fine.

    Student mindset ftw! :)

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