Do not copy this article!

Today’s "blog-flog" in the world of intellectual property concerns the notion of copyright.  Writing for Between Lawyers, the newest Corante weblog, trademark attorney Marty Schwimmer discusses a recent spate of case-summary copying.  For the most part, I agree with Marty’s conclusions:

Forget about copyright. Think of it in terms of manners. Do not copy word for word without credit. Show respect for the small things of others.

You should note, that I just copied part of Marty’s post — However, I used proper copying etiquette by letting the reader know the origin of the quote.  Over at the TTABlog, John Welch talks about his recent experiences:

The TTABlog strives to provide well-written, readily understandable case summaries and commentary. It takes a considerable amount of work to produce that kind of writing, and it is quite upsetting to find someone else using that work product without permission, or even attribution. Just such an incident occurred today.

Kevin Heller, the Tech Law Advisor, gets into the fray as well, as does Bill Heinze, who comments that he provides links to all of his sources.

I have seen entire posts from Patently-O copied and posted in other blogs, on robot-built websites, in other languages, on newsgroups and in other locales as well.  I have even given a few people, such as the editors of IPFrontLine, the freedom to copy entire posts for their own use.  The copycat activity is often good publicity for me, the blog, and my firm (MBHB).  However, if there is no source identifier, then there is no publicity value. 

I have received nice notes from half a dozen law school professors and even a few high-school teachers who asked to copy portions of the blog for their courses.  In another instance, I talked with an attorney who wanted to use information from the blog in a bar association presentation.  Each time I have said yes.  The best part is that, on several occasions, this initial contact was the beginning of a growing friendship — just another example of how copyright is a public good. (I.e., this is an example of how copyright is good for the public.)

In one particularly bad case of copying, I saw a nicely written IP blog post reviewing a new case (not from Patently-O).  A few weeks later, I received a mailer from a major law firm reviewing the same case.  (No, the particularly bad element is not that it took the major firm several weeks to write a case review.)  The particularly bad element is that the major law firm’s case review was almost an exact copy of the the blog post. The greatest difference being that the name of the blogger as author had been replaced with the name of an attorney at the major firm.  We IP bloggers are too polite to name names, but the copycats should be on their toes.

An old friend e-mailed me about this post — his comments are valid:

Your note about blog plagiarism is about the same old stuff of simple plagiarism in any form. "Copying" is too neutral a word. . . . This is serious, serious stuff.

The truth is that if you are a professional and you plagairize, it will come back to haunt you one day.

Here is my copyright policy: Anyone should feel free to copy a short snippets from the blog, so long as you attribute the material source. Shoot me an e-mail if you want to copy an entire post or a series of posts.  You can print out individual posts and send them to a client — just don’t white-out my name or replace my name with your own. 

Kevin Heller e-mailed to ask why I don’t use the creative commons license?  The truth is that I love the CC licensing system — my problem is that I like to get an e-mail or telephone call from the person/organization that wants to use the material.

4 thoughts on “Do not copy this article!

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    There is no pre-built CC license for that.

    But you could just use a standard ANN (attribution, no derivatives, no commercial use) CC license and add the condition that people using over X lines of your posts are required to phone or email you.

    Copyright does not stop you from editing CC licenses, though it is a different question if you are allowed to call the result a “Creative Commons license”, as discussed in detail at this earlier blog post:

    link to

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