Article Author Wins Lawsuit vs. SEO Firm

18 replies
Noticing that article marketing seems to be a widely used strategy by Warriors, I thought this new case summary, which came out today, would be useful to you. Some lessons:

1) Don't use other peoples' articles, even if you are changing the words around;
2) Don't use other peoples' articles, even if you are promoting products that do not compete with the article's original author;
3) If you sue someone for using your articles, be reasonable about how much money you are going to win in court (this guy won $1,000 after trial, but was hoping for some kind of jackpot verdict);
4) If you can resolve a dispute with someone who used your articles outside of court, everyone will be better off.

Here's the summary from the Court's Newletter (which is a public document -- I'm not stealing! :-)

-Curt K

Copyright Infringement
and Attorney Fees

Plaintiff brought a copyright
infringement action against
defendants after copyrighted
material that he authored was
posted on a website controlled by
defendants. The purpose of
defendants' use, to attract
customers to their website, was
commercial. Defendants further
used search engine optimization
techniques to make the article
search-friendly. The use of the
subject article was not
transformative, but an exact copy
with minor edits. Defendants had
significant experience in search
engine optimization techniques, and
an obvious word search on the
internet would have easily led them
to plaintiff's website where they
would have discovered the
copyrighted subject article.
Although the court held that
there was copyright infringement, it
declined to exercise its discretion to
increase damages for willful
infringement for two reasons: first,
although defendants plagiarized the
bulk of plaintiff's ad promoting his
product and tailored it to fit their
non-competing product, the product
was not one that plaintiff sold
separately; second, plaintiff's
original attorney sent defendants a
demand letter requesting $300,000
and threatened to refer the matter
for criminal prosecution unless a
demand for money was satisfied--
such a tactic was itself arguably a
violation of the law. The court
awarded statutory damages of
$1,000.

The court denied a
subsequent motion for attorney
fees and costs, pointing out that
defendants had offered to resolve
the case before trial by paying
plaintiff $750 plus reasonable fees
and costs incurred up to that date.
Plaintiff spurned the offer,
engaged in no further settlement
discussions, and decided to pursue
litigation, incurring the vast bulk
of his fees and costs thereafter for
a net increase of $250 over
defendants' offer. Further,
defendants caused no actual
damages to plaintiff, nor did they
create the potential for actual
damages. The purpose of
compensation and/or deterrence
would not be served by rewarding
plaintiff for his efforts to obtain
an enormous windfall by
threatening criminal prosecution
and, after his unreasonable
monetary demand was properly
rejected by defendants, pursuing
the litigation to an unsuccessful
conclusion. Plaintiff's motion was
denied.

McNamara v. Universal
Commercial Services,
CV 07-6079-TC
(Findings of Fact and Conclusion
of Law, Sept. 16, 2008, Opinion
#article #article marketing #author #copyright #firm #lawsuit #plagiarism #seo #wins
  • {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[223574].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author UndercoverLawyer
      The case was litigated in Oregon District Court, Eugene Division.

      Oregon is in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers most of the western states (WA, OR, ID, MT, CA, NV, AZ, AK, HI).

      If the case were affirmed on appeal, it would then be "binding authority" throughout the 9th Circuit (meaning a judge really should follow this ruling). Until then, this case is just "persuasive authority" (meaning a judge really should take the case into consideration).

      Curt
      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[223641].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author MeTellYou
    Man... you gotta know what you're doing. Rewriting is an art. In fact a good rewriter will write an article that keeps the old ideas in there, but it's almost a totally new article altogether.
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[223631].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author mmurtha
      Originally Posted by MeTellYou View Post

      Man... you gotta know what you're doing. Rewriting is an art. In fact a good rewriter will write an article that keeps the old ideas in there, but it's almost a totally new article altogether.
      Itotally agree!

      BUT, a lot of people were simply told that it's ok to change a few words and use it. This is what they called "re-writing" lol.

      Personally, I always thought that changing it at least 75% is good enough, giving people room to simply use the main ideas of the articles, and suppliment the rest with their own words.


      Mary
      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[223657].message }}
      • Profile picture of the author Shannon Tani
        Originally Posted by mmurtha View Post

        Itotally agree!

        BUT, a lot of people were simply told that it's ok to change a few words and use it. This is what they called "re-writing" lol.

        Personally, I always thought that changing it at least 75% is good enough, giving people room to simply use the main ideas of the articles, and suppliment the rest with their own words.


        Mary
        This is still plagiarism.

        From http://www.plagiarism.org/learning_c...rism_faq.html:

        If I change the words, do I still have to cite the source?

        Changing only the words of an original source is NOT sufficient to prevent plagiarism. You must cite a source whenever you borrow ideas as well as words.





        Love,
        Shannon
        Signature

        {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[223671].message }}
        • Profile picture of the author cloudchaser22
          Originally Posted by Shannon Tani View Post

          This is still plagiarism.

          From http://www.plagiarism.org/learning_c...rism_faq.html:

          If I change the words, do I still have to cite the source?

          Changing only the words of an original source is NOT sufficient to prevent plagiarism. You must cite a source whenever you borrow ideas as well as words.





          Love,
          Shannon
          I really don't understand the concept of plagiarism. Obviously copying someone's work will send you straight to court. But isn't every English word we use a form of copying to an extent, making it "illegal"? I think it's kind of wacky that a person should own full entitlement rights to words.... I believe that whenever we borrow ideas from someone else, there's a good chance that they have borrowed those ideas from someone else before them and that person has borrowed it from someone else before them that they didn't know of.

          Just my 2 cents.
          Signature

          I'm a starter, but I am willing to try everything I can to be a successful internet marketer and chase my dreams. If you can answer any of my questions, I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you.

          {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[224984].message }}
          • Profile picture of the author Kirk Ward
            Originally Posted by cloudchaser22 View Post

            I really don't understand the concept of plagiarism. Obviously copying someone's work will send you straight to court. But isn't every English word we use a form of copying to an extent, making it "illegal"? I think it's kind of wacky that a person should own full entitlement rights to words.... I believe that whenever we borrow ideas from someone else, there's a good chance that they have borrowed those ideas from someone else before them and that person has borrowed it from someone else before them that they didn't know of.

            Just my 2 cents.
            cloudchaser,

            Ideas you can copy, unless they are translated into a work.

            If they are translated into a work composed of words, then they are copyrighted by default unless there is an exception granted. The particular words do not matter. It is the expression of the idea, in part or in whole.

            If they are translated into an artifact, then they may be protected by patent, but that must be actively sought by the originator and is subject to prior work holding precedence.

            That's my three cents.
            Signature
            "We are not here to sell a parcel of boilers and vats, but the potentiality of growing rich beyond the dreams of avarice."

            Dr. Samuel Johnson (Presiding at the sale of Thrales brewery, London, 1781)
            {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[263048].message }}
            • Profile picture of the author sam12six
              Originally Posted by Kirk Ward View Post

              cloudchaser,

              Ideas you can copy, unless they are translated into a work.

              If they are translated into a work composed of words, then they are copyrighted by default unless there is an exception granted. The particular words do not matter. It is the expression of the idea, in part or in whole.

              If they are translated into an artifact, then they may be protected by patent, but that must be actively sought by the originator and is subject to prior work holding precedence.

              That's my three cents.
              See, this is the problem I've always had with the concept of plagiarism:

              Say I've been studying credit rebuilding for years and I decide to sit down and write an article based on what I know. It's not plagiarism, even though everything I know (my ideas) I learned from something somebody else wrote first.

              Now I decide to move into the dog training niche (which I know nothing about). I read a good article about how you should be gentle with your dog and decide to write an article that agrees with the concept in that article, just in my own words - that's plagiarism?!?

              Obviously, in the 2nd example if my 'rewrite' consists of copying the article and changing every instance of 'dog' to 'canine', then it's plagiarism, but I just don't see the author of the original article having a stranglehold on the entire concept of being gentle with your dog just because he or she wrote that article.

              The bottom line is if we were to worry about this to such an extent we would never write any article because all of our time would be spent researching for the very, very, very few concepts nobody has ever published.
              {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[263298].message }}
              • Profile picture of the author cclou
                Originally Posted by sam12six View Post

                Now I decide to move into the dog training niche (which I know nothing about). I read a good article about how you should be gentle with your dog and decide to write an article that agrees with the concept in that article, just in my own words - that's plagiarism?!?
                I was taught that if you find an idea in so many different sources, it's considered common knowledge and you don't have to source for using the knowledge in article or book. I believe I was taught three, and this was taught to me by an English professor, but I've learned wrong things before.
                {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[263318].message }}
        • Profile picture of the author Michael Taylor
          Originally Posted by Shannon Tani View Post


          You must cite a source whenever you borrow ideas as well as words.
          Copyright law doesn't protect ideas. Only the expression of words.
          {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[265784].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author Chris_L
    Thanks for the info, Curt. This reinforces most of the advises I got from the Warrior forum. Don't rewrite other people's articles. If you plan to rewrite, do it with PLR articles.

    Chris
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[223769].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author mmurtha
    Hey Shannon,

    Yup, I agree!

    That's what I was saying in my post lol.
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[224897].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author getsmartt
    Now I decide to move into the dog training niche (which I know nothing about). I read a good article about how you should be gentle with your dog and decide to write an article that agrees with the concept in that article, just in my own words - that's plagiarism?!?

    Obviously, in the 2nd example if my 'rewrite' consists of copying the article and changing every instance of 'dog' to 'canine', then it's plagiarism, but I just don't see the author of the original article having a stranglehold on the entire concept of being gentle with your dog just because he or she wrote that article.

    The bottom line is if we were to worry about this to such an extent we would never write any article because all of our time would be spent researching for the very, very, very few concepts nobody has ever published.
    IMHO you are talking about two different things here, if I read an article and it sparked an idea for a related article, that would be totally different than sitting down with the original article and simply translating it into my own words.

    One is inspiration the second is plagiarism.
    Signature

    Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich stärker

    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[263332].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author Marhelper
      Finally, a ruling in favor of the little guy. It is refreshing to see that copyright laws hold with article marketing as well. Thanks for the research and providing it to us here at the WF.
      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[263343].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author sam12six
      I agree with you. My point is that the whole plagiarism issue is a pretty fuzzy line. You could get 10 people to look at an original article and the article it inspired and get a deadlock on the vote over whether or not it was plagiarized.

      The thing is, too much of the question revolves around the intent of the person writing the second article and that's always a tough target to pin down. If you see an article that I wrote and realize it's total garbage (but with a good base idea) and decide to do a rewrite with the exact same base idea, just more clearly communicated - I don't consider that plagiarism.

      Now that's just my personal criteria, but I wouldn't have a problem with anything but a direct uncredited copy/paste or an obvious word-substitution rewrite.

      Originally Posted by getsmartt View Post

      IMHO you are talking about two different things here, if I read an article and it sparked an idea for a related article, that would be totally different than sitting down with the original article and simply translating it into my own words.

      One is inspiration the second is plagiarism.
      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[263363].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author spudzz
    So, how easy is it for an article writer to sue, say, EzineArticles for publishing a plagiarised article and then gaining from the Adsense revenue off that page?

    On the basis of this judgement, any of us running article directories are laying ourselves open to legal abuse.
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[264924].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author looseleafpress
    Just goes to show you that you have to rewrite! rewrite! rewrite! Never just take someones article and change a few words. Just use it as a guideline for points to make etc.
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[265803].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author bndr
    If I translate articles and change the wording(40% of article) can I be sued?
    Signature

    Nothing Here

    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[265847].message }}

Trending Topics