Friday, September 27, 2013
Someone Stole My Scrambled Paragraphs!
Thin copyright. We knows it's aggravating to see your work pilfered but unfortunately, a court is likely to determine that you have a compilation copyright (a thin copyright) in the order of the sentences, not the content. And even though it took a lot of work, copyright doesn't protect what's called "sweat of the brow." So your copyright claim is not strong, and your adversary's attorney would make the most of it. Attributing the paragraphs doesn't help your claim to copyright ownership and neither does the fact that you're not profiting and it's for educational purposes (though that might help you in a fair use defense in the unlikely event any of your sources chase you). The end result of your hypothetical court case is that lawyers would do well while their clients went broke. We sense that your adversary knows you won't sue and is brazenly ripping you off because ... well, because that's what people do these days (maybe he should watch this).
What can you do? If you're looking for a stronger basis to bring someone into court, you could consider making people join your site before using it. As part of "joining," they must click to agree to your user agreement which should state that no portion of the site may be copied. A breach of this agreement would prove easier to enforce, (should you choose to go to court) than the wishy-washy law of copyright.